History of BTIA

Formed on April 26, 1985 as a broad-based tourism umbrella organization, BTIA sought to bring together tourism related interests to meet the challenges of a dynamic and growing tourism industry in Belize.

In the early 1980’s tourism was of relatively little importance in Belize.  Nonetheless, it was an evolving industry that was impacting various sectors. A group of individuals foresaw the importance of the industry and anticipated the need for a medium through which tourism concerns could be voiced. This group, lead by the late Mrs. Jean Shaw, conceived the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA).  The association was incorporated under the laws of Belize in 1989 and has become one of Belize’s largest non-profit organizations, boasting some 600 members from Belize’s six districts.  In 2006 the organization became registered under the Revised 2000 NGO Act, Chapter 315 of the Laws of Belize.

Today, the association has representation on almost every government, legislative, advisory, consultative and licensing committee, which in itself is proof of its continued commitment to national development.  BTIA also plays an important role in the linkage of the private and public sectors.  As a direct consequence of BTIA’s initiatives, in particular its advocacy efforts, tourism has become the fastest growing industry and has been pushed to the forefront of government’s priorities.


1985 – 1988

Jean ShawThe late Mrs. Jean Shaw was one of the founding members and the first President of the BTIA from 1985-1988. Being the first President, Jean Shaw worked tirelessly to bring this association to the public’s attention, both locally and internationally. Today, BTIA is recognized as the official private sector voice of the Belize tourism industry, both by the Government and the private sector. Jean Shaw is the only President who served a term of three years.


1988 – 1990

Janice AguilarJanice Aguilar was elected the second President of the BTIA in 1988. During her two year Presidency, 1988 to 1990, Janet quickly picked up from the foundation laid before her be the late Jean Shaw. In 1989, BTIA was incorporated into the laws of Belize and had a signed Articles of Association and Memorandum of Understanding. In addition, it was during Janice’s Presidency that the BTIA became actively involved in country wide lectures, participated in international conferences.


1990 – 1991

Janet FinlaysonJanet Finlayson took over the Presidency from Janice Aguilar from 1990 to 1991. While she only served one term, her year of Presidency saw the introduction of the Belize Mundo Maya involvement. In fact, it was under Janet’s Presidency that the BTIA Mundo Maya Committee was formed. That same year, Belize was selected as the Mundo Maya Secretariat and a regional Mundo Maya membership directory was produced. Janet now lives in England where she manages The Garden House Hotel.


1991 – 1992

In 1991, the BTIA held its Annual General Meeting at the newly opened Ramada Hotel and at that meeting, and at what was considered a surprise nomination, Paul Hunt was elected as President. He served this term for one year and later got re-elected for a second term during the 1996-1997 term. Taking over from his predecessor Janet Finlayson, Paul worked alongside then Tourism Minister Glen Godfrey to host the first World Conference on Eco-Tourism in Belize hosted at the newly built Biltmore Hotel.

1992 – 1993

Maria VegaIn 1992, she took over the Presidency from Paul Hunt and established BTIA and Belize as a key force in Regional Policy, Planning and Marketing for the Tourism Industry. Maria Vega negotiated successfully and laid the groundwork for BTIA’s most enduring income earner, the Destination Belize magazine. She also presided over a year of successful implementation of USAID assistance for Tourism Awareness, Training, Membership Services, and Organizational Development.


1993 – 1994

Steve MaestreSteve Maestre was elected the sixth President of the BTIA in 1993. he is the only person to hold both the Presidency of the BTIA and Deputy Chairman of the BTB at the same time. He was one of the founding members of the BTIA and was also the first Vice President to the late Jean Shaw in 1985. Steve’s hard work and integrated approach brought the BTIA and the BTB to a close working relationship with the then BTB Chairman, Santino Castillo.

1994 – 1997

Godsman EllisDuring his Presidency, he established the Belize Marine Terminal as another source of income generation for the BTIA. Also momentous in his term was the establishment of permanent house for the BTIA with the purchase of the building on North Park Street. Godsman Ellis later assumed the Presidency of the Federation of Central American Tourism Association (FEDECATUR) and started a project on the standardization of tourism Best Practices in Central America. It was also this President that started the first BTIA International Tourism Expo in Belize.

1997 – 1999

Susan FullerSusan Fuller is no stranger to the Tourism Industry. In fact, she served as President for the BTIA from 1997 thru to 1999, a solid two year term. During Susan’s Presidency, she was active with the signing of the “Lamanai Room Declaration” that was issued by the BTIA and the Belize Audubon Society. Susan also lobbied for the BTIA to be members on the board of a number of national organizations. The first BETEX show was also held under her Presidency. Susan now works at OMNI Networks in Belize City.

1999 – 2001

Ida SaucedaIn 1999, Ida Sauceda took over the BTIA Presidency from Susan Fuller and held that position for two years. During those two years, she fought to keep the BTIA going at a time when the association was already starting to face declining membership and financial constraints. Ida’s successful Presidency brought about the formation of a BTIA Business Plan, the signing of a three million dollars IDB/MIF funded project for Eco-tourism training programs, and the development of ten destination brochures in collaboration with the BTB.

2001 – 2002

Mike PantonEvery great leader is considered great for at least one of his greatest accomplishment. In 2001, when just about everyone but a few faithful had given up on the BTIA, Michael Panton was elected as President for a one year term, inheriting a BTIA that was at the brink of bankruptcy. During his Presidency, he started the process of canceling the high debts the association found itself in and started the process of steering the BTIA back to becoming the most powerful private sector tourism organization today.

2002 – 2004

Steven SchulteIn 2002, Steven Schulte was sought after, nominated and elected as the eleventh President of the BTIA for a two year term, from 2002, thru to 2004. He is the CEO and co-owner of Tropic Air and has a vast knowledge of corporate business strategy, bringing his own business from the verge of bankruptcy to one of the most successful domestic airline carriers in Belize today. At a time when the BTIA was facing difficult times, Steven Schulte’s Presidency was seen as one that would bring hope to an association strap for cash and financially challenged.

2004 – 2006

Lucy FlemingLucy Fleming’s co founding owner of The Lodge at Chaa Creek, began her term by implementing the membership’s mandate to challenge, in the Supreme Court, the Government of Belize’s approval for the development of a cruise ship port. The result marked the first time in Belize that an association won a judicial review of a government decision. During the rest of Lucy’s tenure, the BTIA’s membership increased by 40% with significant benefits to members as she helped organise the largest ever number of training opportunities in hospitality, marketing, culinary arts and loss prevention as well as the formation of district business watch centres.

2006 – 2008

Rosella ZabanehRosella Zabaneh joined the BTIA in 1990 with Blue Marlin Lodge and later added the Bonefish Hotel. Her active involvement in the BTIA both at the local Stann Creek destination level and the National level has brought her much recognition and respect throughout the tourism industry. She has served as the President of the Stann Creek BTIA for several terms during which time she managed to change the Dangriga waterfront and initiated the Dangriga Town Pier development project.


2008 – 2010

Dionne Miranda took office in 2008, and has continued to provide leadership for the association in a time when the global economy is faced with serious challenges, and our tourism arrivals have declined.  By closely collaborating with members countrywide, she and the current Board of Directors continue to represent membership needs and tourism stakeholder concerns throughout Belize.

2010 – 2012

James Scott took the presidency in 2010.

After steering BTIA through a phase of personnel changes, he lead the association on to a path of successful international marketing and advocacy, while championing initiatives that highlight the BTIA’s responsibility toward the community and the environment as an influential, independent, NGO in Belize.

2012 – 2014

Herbert Haylock During his presidency Mr. Haylock continued his leadership promoting the sustainable development of the Tourism Industry. Remarkably in the advocacy stage of the Service Charge issue which was initiated and spearheaded by the Belize Tourism Industry Association on behalf of its membership along with wider tourism stakeholders on March 27, 2014. The final  determination was that the income tax department agreed not to tax service charge for accommodations registered under the Belize Tourism Board service charge scheme and restaurants that that operate under the license of duly licensed accommodation properties.

2014 – Present

Osmany SalasOsmany Salas