Placencia steals the Show at 2013 Tourism Awards Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 23 May 2013 00:00

David Heredia receives Minister’s AwardThe 12th Annual Tourism Awards was held at the newest hotspot for domestic tourism, Bannister Caye, on Saturday, May 18th. Over two hundred and thirty industry stakeholders honoured the all-white dress code and attended the event hosted by the Belize Tourism Board. There were two special awards presented to individuals, who have made significant contribution to the tourism industry and nine awards given in recognition of exceptional products and services.

By the end of the night, it was acceptable to refer to the event as the Placencia Awards Show. Seven out of the nine awards up for grabs went to individuals and establishments from the Placencia Peninsula. The Frontline Personality of the Year was Natalie Ranguy of Chabil Mar Villas, a resort in Placencia. The award is given to a frontline employee with great interpersonal skills that welcomes guests with outstanding Belizean hospitality. Ranguy said, “From the time your guest steps on your property you know that that person is a value to your property and to Belize. So, you have to make sure that they're contented and they're happy because they travel all the way just to come and see our country. When they get here, we have to make sure that they have a good time and want to come back and bring friends.” The Hospitality Award was presented to the Placencia Tourism Center for exceptional customer service. The Tour Operator of the Year is the Splash Dive Center from Placencia. Splash wins the award for its creativity and wide variety of tours. It meets international standards of safety and security, equipment quality, cleanliness and reliability.

Placencia was also recognized as the Destination of the Year. According to the Belize Tourism Board, Placencia “is proactive in its marketing initiatives and product enhancement. It also seeks to develop local tourism businesses for the development of the destination.” Stuart Krohn, Chairman of the Placencia branch of the Belize Tourism Industry Association, said, “It’s a credit to how the community pulls together as a destination. When it comes down to it, everyone is working towards a common goal and we want the destination to be the best it can be.” The Small Hotel of the Year is Singing Sands Inn of Maya Beach, Placencia. The BTB says that Singing Sands Inn is a “small hotel that captures the essence of warmth and authenticity through its accommodations.” The Restaurant of the Year is the Maya Beach Bistro from Placencia. John Lee, Co-Owner of the Maya Beach Bistro, said that opening a restaurant in Belize presents a unique opportunity. Lee said that they have adapted Belizean dishes such as the “hudut” and put their own twist on it. He said their success is due in large part to the Belizean staff. Placencia’s final award of the night was for the best Major Festival and Event, the Placencia Lobster Fest. According to the BTB, this award goes to “a hallmark festival/event that promotes income generating activities, stimulates local and international travel, attracts national & international media coverage, and positively promotes the destination.” Organizers of the event promised that this year’s Lobster Fest will be better than ever.

 The two awards that did not go to Placencia establishments are the Tour Guide of the Year Award and the Hotel of the Year. Jerome Williams of Huracan Diving from Long Caye won the Tour Guide of the Year Award. Williams said to be a good tour guide “It takes firstly being humble, being patient, hardwork and respect." The Tour Guide of the Year must be knowledgeable about Belize’s history, natural attractions and local tours. The Hotel of the Year goes to a “hotel where service exceeds excellence, where positive attitude and attentiveness of staff are the norm. The hotel of the year offers exceptional value for money and is equipped with modern facilities and amenities.” The 2013 Hotel of the Year is the San Ignacio Resort Hotel. Miriam Roberson, Owner of San Ignacio Resort Hotel, said, “We owe the biggest thank you to the people who are behind it, our staff.” She said the award is the result of thirty-seven years of hard work with the goal of continuing to improve the resort and adapt to the demands of patrons.

Minister of Tourism and Culture, Hon. Manuel Heredia, Jr., presented the Minister’s Award to David Heredia. David Heredia is the owner of Anchorage Hotel in Caye Caulker. He received the award for his lifelong work and interest in the tourism industry and development of Caye Caulker. He said it is impressive how the island has developed and attracted so many tourists. However, he would like to see a greater amount of Belizean visitors and, he took the opportunity to invite all Belizeans who have never been to Caye Caulker to take a trip and enjoy the beautiful beach. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Jessie Young, President of the Community Baboon Sanctuary Women’s Group in Bermudian Landing. Young has dedicated over thirty years to the Community Baboon Sanctuary and the development of the tourism industry. She said, “It has been challenging and the road has been rough. Sometimes, I get discouraged and I want to give up but then when I think about my people, I always encourage them and tell them 'None but ourselves'. That's my motto.  If we don't do it, then nobody will do it for us.” Young was not comfortable receiving the award because she is a behind-the-scenes-type of woman, who would prefer the attention be on the sanctuary and her community. However, the people of Bermudian Landing wouldn’t have it any other way. Jessie Young’s Lifetime Achievement Award was well deserved.