What Does BTIA Do?
What does BTIA do?
It happens more often that you’d think. I will be introduced to someone as President of the Belize Tourism Industry Association and the first question I’m asked is “just what does BTIA do?” At first I’m taken aback but then realize that it’s a pretty good question. I know that a significant portion of my day is taken up with BTIA matters but have never really stopped to break down exactly what it is that our organization spends its time on. Let me give it a try.
First of all BTIA is not a single monolithic entity. In the first instance it consists of its several hundred members who at the national level elect a six member Executive Committee. That body is joined by the chairperson of each local chapter (around ten in all) and together with the EC form BTIA’s Board of Directors. The EC meets around once a month with the larger board around half that frequency. The day-to-day work of the organization is carried out by our two-person secretariat.
So that’s the structure but we still don’t know what all those people do.
The major activity of BTIA is to advocate for the interests of the tourism industry. This includes hotels, tour operators, tour guides, restaurants, spas, gift shops, car rentals—any activity directly related to tourism and includes both the overnight and cruise sectors.
This advocacy takes many forms. The most obvious example was during the Covid-19 pandemic when we lobbied for common sense policies that did not make visitors prisoners in their hotels and allowed them to enjoy the country’s many outdoor attractions without hindrance and in safety. We simultaneously pushed for policies that put tourism workers near the head of the line for vaccinations while at the same time campaigning for all Belizeans to be vaccinated.
Similarly we regularly advocate in the areas of industry regulation, taxation, economic support and related areas including crime control, sargassum, environmental policy, transport and labor relations. Some of these efforts take place through our representation on various boards and committees (Belize Tourism Board, Sargassum Task Force, Airline Development Committee, PACT and DFC to name a few) while other means take the form of personal contact with officials at BTB, Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations and Government in general. We try at all times to maintain a positive relationship with Government but we are not afraid to respectfully disagree with some policies when they conflict with what we believe to be the best interests of our members. In general we favor policies that promote sustainability, nature-based tourism and the preservation of authenticity in our tourism product.
At the same time we are always looking outside of Government to promote projects financed both internationally and domestically that will advance the development of the industry. This is done at the level of BTIA national as well as local chapters and individual members. These include educational opportunities, loans and grants.
Outside of specific advocacy efforts BTIA regularly sponsors educational activities ranging from direct specialty training courses (recent culinary offerings are a good example) to industry-wide gatherings (Tourism Summit in May).
But the most visible BTIA activities take place at the local chapter level. Where would we be without Lobsterfest, Mangofest, Chocolate Festival, Sidewalk Arts Festival and Mistletoe Ball just to name a few? These kind of events took a major hit during Covid but this coming year will see a return to form as our local chapters work hard make our various destinations not only more attractive to visitors but promote increased morale and cohesion among the thousands of Belizeans who make tourism so successful.
So what does BTIA do? Plenty! Find out more at our Annual General Meeting on January 10. And please don’t forget to renew your membership.
There were 5 Panels focusing on Climate Change, Belize City Cruise Ports, Branding, Airports and Land Borders & Looking Ahead: what is the goal and how do we get there?