“There are many new and exciting initiatives underway at BTB as we reposition the organization to lead Belize’s destination branding and marketing to a higher level in accordance with our goals to leverage BTB efforts in dynamic and positive ways to better serve the country’s tourism stakeholders.” These were the words of Seleni Matus, Director of Tourism of the Belize Tourism Board, as she sent out a press release to tourism stakeholders to clarify some misinformation that is circulating in some circles and leading to confusion about the BTB’s current online status and restructuring underway.
Seleni Matus continued by stating, “To follow--?up our March 31st mailing regarding the transition of our online assets, we’ve heard from individuals throughout Belize questioning, and in some cases accusing, the BTB of terminating the contract of our long-time online vendor/partner – Naturalight Productions. The fact is, their contract expired on March 31, 2011 and they notified the BTB on March 15, 2011 they would no longer be interested in serving the BTB. While we were very interested in exploring with them their services on an interim basis during this transition period to a new online provider, the costs of such interim services offered by Naturalight were extremely expensive: They asked for $152,327.50 per month for use of their images currently on our websites; an additional $2,650 per month for hosting BTB’s sites, and an additional $3,750 per month for use of downloadable images for BZ Media Centre/ BZ Travel Trade websites, and a further $150 per hour for any updates made to the sites by BTB or our industry partners. These extremely high costs are impossible for the BTB to meet on a monthly basis. Therefore we had no choice but to seek the services of another interim online partner while we conduct our search for a new online agency to work with BTB and manage all of our online resources.”
The Belize Tourism Board is very encouraged and excited to now be in discussions with some of the top online service providers for destination marketing in the travel and tourism industry and is look forward to announcing its new online service provider once that process is complete.
Due to the timing of this transition, and as a result of limited accessibility to the functional site architecture, the interim online agency contracted to work with the BTB temporarily during this full online transition process had to make a digital duplicate of all of the BTB’s site pages. This process which is called “scraping” caused some minor errors in the websites’ basic operations, which temporarily disabled the websites.
The good news is the BTB has been able to obtain the original site files and is now in the process of restoring many of the old websites to their original functionality. TravelBelize.org will be functionally restored shortly.
“Regarding photography, when I arrived at BTB I was startled to discover that after 15 years of contracting with Naturalight, BTB did not own any of the photos in its image gallery,” commented Seleni Matus. “This is highly unusual among tourism boards in the world where it is important to own also rights to its own image gallery in order to do its job well. Because of the very high license fees which we had to pay every time we used a photo in our own BTB image gallery, this model of photo dependency was simply unsustainable. Therefore, while we set up plans for new photos to be taken and seek out other high quality existing image sources, the BTB has identified high quality images of Belize that we are able to start using now and is also reaching out to the industry for any images you have that you may be willing to share with BTB to highlight the beauty and excitement of Belize. A usage form will be posted on the website for you to submit photos that you feel capture the wonder and beauty of our country. All photos used will be credited on the site and returned to their owners.”
The press release also gave an update on the current status of all of the BTB’s websites so that the public understands how it is moving forward with improving Belize’s web presence and content as part of the official launch of a new and vastly improved BTB website under development.
* TravelBelize.org – The site has been temporarily rebuilt after the initial “scraping.” And now that we have all of the associated files, a full restoration is underway.
* BelizeTourism.org – The site has been fully restored with plans to go live by April 15, 2011.
* BelizeEmerergency.org –We will be developing an emergency page as an adjunct from our TravelBelize.Org platform which will be activated and live prior to, during and post any emergency. Please note the old domain name will be redirected to this new page.
* BelizeMaya2012.com –This site will be live again in the next few weeks and we are making sure it is fully optimized this time utilizing the key words by people searching for Maya 2012 information. We are also investing in a social media strategy that will help give a much--?needed lift to the implementation of all BTB initiatives for Maya 2012 and others.
* BelizeMediaCenter.org – This site will be fully restored with beautiful images of Belize that we are now in the process of compiling to replace the images we no longer have access to due to the high fees associated with their use. Please note that those of you, our industry partners, that have your own high quality photos that you may wish to appear on the BTB website, we would be delighted to include them especially in assisting a journalist interested in specific photos we do not already have within our current limited library.
* BelizeTravelTrade.org – This site will be fully restored also with new images. Meanwhile, the travel trade team is making specific outreach to all travel trade partners to ensure they know we are happy to handle their specific needs on a one--?on--?one basis.
* SeptemberCelebrations.com – Launched in July of 2010, this site has not delivered enough traffic to meet our new and higher standards. The good news, however, is the September Celebrations Facebook page does have over 1,000 fans and continues to generate interest. We believe Facebook is where it should be for better results for all our celebration promotions moving forward.
* TasteOfBelize.com – This formerly--?designed website also does not produce the level of traffic to meet BTB’s marketing goals, therefore it will not be restored. The 2011 Taste of Belize will have an ongoing presence within the overall new website development as that is completed.
* ToucanTrail.org – This site will be fully restored in the coming weeks. However, we feel it is important to note that the site only receives a low level of visitation – on average of 1,000 unique visitors per month with some months as low as just 100 visitors. Therefore, when the site launches again, we are planning to better optimize it to increase traffic and ensure that it works more effectively in delivering higher returns for its intended online market.
“On behalf of the BTB and our Board, these are exciting times of restructuring and reorganizing at BTB as we work hard to truly ramp up BTB’s ability to deliver at a much higher level for our tourism partners and industry stakeholders,” concluded Seleni Matus. “With change from old ways to new certainly comes challenge, but these are challenges that BTB continues to meet successfully in our steadfast aim to clarify any misinformation that may be out there while we focus on new goals and objectives.”