BTIA President’s Speech

BTIA Bi-annual General Meeting
Presidents Address, June 26th 2012

Greetings and I trust this day finds you all well.

The BTIA has been and is the major lobbying group for the entire tourism sector in Belize since 1986 and to that I say “Happy Birthday BTIA Members.” Plain and simple, the BTIA represents the tourism sector in many ways. Made up of a host of personalities, a variety of interests and a multitude of talent!

In saying this, one should imagine the problems that they would encounter if the BTIA wasn’t there to work with GOB, MOT and BTB on workable plans for taxation, licensing, infrastructure conservation and promotional planning. The saga never ends as we will soon learn more about the compelling issue that lies ahead for our hotel sector.

Keep in mind private sector…… your destination boards, your sector boards, your national board members are volunteers. They spend hours of planning, preparation and travel taking up their precious time, money and energy to represent our needs and preparing our industry for future generations.

It is critical that we have a voice, it is critical that we stay engaged and it is critical that we stay current in a contemporary sense. As you know, I represent our association on the Belize Tourist Board and I hope everyone in this room can appreciate this next comment, especially my fellow BTB board members, but “We should fear NOT those who argue but those who dodge,” put it on the table and talk it through, come up with a collective plan and execute!

I’m sure all of you that represent your interests on boards or committees can appreciate that too. Your support gives everyone in your community a chance to benefit and when you give of your time and ideas, you strengthen your industry. A strong organization can build strong communities and strong communities build strong industries.

We need to do more and assume the responsibility to strengthen our communities where our employees live, where we live; these include having civic pride, safety, youth programs and education. We invest and build a better future for all when we work to improve our communities!

“When you stop giving and offering something to the rest of the world, it’s time to turn off the lights,” George Burns: Comedian

Ladies and gentlemen, pay your membership dues and encourage all of your colleagues, management teams to get involved and become members. Realize the shared responsibility we all have to be more involved in our local chapters and on a national level.

Allow me to share a few ideas from a community level, which again, translates to our industry:

1. Become more integrated (show your face and know your neighbor)
a. Even if it seems unfriendly

2. Get involved in tangible “example setting” projects
a. Parenting workshops
b. Adopt a park, football field or basketball court (stop walking or driving by and doing Nothing.)
c. If not BTIA then…Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions etc

“Involve the same young people in your area that will benefit….teach them by walking beside them and sell that mission and vision for your community because people are hungry for it.”

If the world’s employed tourism professional’s is 8%, the Caribbean’s employed is 15% and Belize’s Employed is 30%, it is obvious that we should be community leaders and working closely with our local and national governments to pave a sustainable path for tourism.

Industry matters:

Although I may have strayed from the business at hand, I broached the fore mentioned subject because our current culture and state of our communities are directly related to the success of our businesses and future. Make no mistake, we can talk about taxes, marketing, environment and infrastructure etc.; however, CRIME is still the number one problem we have and we can not afford to sit around on our thumbs, waiting for the Government to try and fix it. We must be engaged and we must take back our communities.
We are seeing signs of this happening in Cayo; an engaged group of individuals who collaborated with the local and national police force to detain a criminal. They are fed up and are proof of accepting the challenge and bringing in a suspected predator.

Recently a group from our board and the ED met with the Minister of National Security – Hon. John Saldivar and his CEO Col. George Lovell (we should all know these names). They were very receptive to our recommendations and offered support starting with immediate action in the south; this past weekend I checked with our Placencia Rep. Mr. Krohn and he said they are making headway, although slow. There were two check points going into the village for Lobster Fest this weekend which is a great start. They have active plans to create a mobile check point task force.

Although these are just a couple examples of action being taken, it does seem to be glaring at us again, that we have a responsibility and vested interest to become more involved.

Over the course of this week I emailed 5 past Presidents to ask them one question. Over the last 10 years what do see as being 3 of the most monumental issues BTIA has championed?

Here are some of those answers:

1. Providing leadership and signing on international declaration
for the 0 tolerance stance for sexual exploitation in Belize.
a. Because of training there have been results!!!!!
b. We need more people seriously considering this “CAYO”
2. Taxation
3. Labor issues
4. Cruise Ship issues
5. STP Master Plan
6. Tour operators issues/Via Dept. of Transport
7. Off Shore drilling
8. Destination Belize evolution
9. And the BETEX Evolution

We have members that sit on National Boards like BTB, PACT, Coastal Zone Mgt., STP Steering committee, Selection Committees and there are more.

Our Destinations are doing and accomplishing: New Visitor Centres, Cacao Fest, Mango Fest, Rum Fest, Lobster Fest, Medical Clinics in San Pedro, and many others; keep it up, it’s both addictive and contagious.

There is progress and there is always change. We need to be prepared for change, and respond, and maintain strong bonds between our sectors! Our relations and committed work with BTB, the MOT&C, and GOB need to be maintained no matter what the change.

How many people truly realize the extent and mastery of the Sustainable Tourism Project? Or that it involves a Tourism Master Plan, and that you can find it online on the STP website. Take it upon yourselves to go and research on the cultural tourism grants that are being offered, the Taxation Study that was conducted and its “pending final report”, the infrastructure projects that are going on in Belize City, Cayo, Placencia and San Pedro and planning for additional work. We need to know these things and we need to know that BTB/MOT is being asked to supply the leadership for this multi-million dollar project. We need to realize that where BTB and our hotel tax dollars are concerned, that they are being played as the goose with the golden egg by everyone for every issue under the sun. They are becoming a donor agency for everything from the public health issue, transport, security and infrastructure.

Our involvement is critical from all angles and our voice is critical, we have people in our industry and communities who sleep in fear that they will be noticed. We need to wake them up. Small or large businesses, we need to wake them up. If I appear to be preaching to the choir I apologize. Our conscience should be part of our guide but logic and knowledge will tell us that we have work to do.

Those key partnerships are critical that I just mentioned, and our progress is hinged on none of us acting alone. We must pledge our commitment to this mandate, wake up a few sleepers and get busy.

My colleagues Own your community and own your industry! Thank you.

Jim Scott