The Belize Tourism Board held its 13th National Tourism Awards on Saturday, August 1st in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. The event had a grand turn out with guest converging from all corners of the country for this gala event. Distinguished guests included the Prime Minister, Honorable Dean Barrow, Ambassador of Taiwan, H.E. Benjamin Ho, and Minister of Tourism, Culture, & Civil Aviation Honorable Manuel Heredia Jr. among others.
The event began with a cocktail reception, following seating of guests to commence the festivities. Nominees were all well represented and showed up in full force anticipating the results of the judging process. This year, the list of categories had increased to 11 with a total of 57 nominations. The winners are as follows:
• Hotel of the Year
Gaia River Lodge
Winning Criteria: A licensed hotel with more than ten rooms that offers a gateway to paradise, where service exceeds excellence, engulfed with positive attitude and attentiveness of staff. Offering exceptional value for money, equipped with outstanding facilities and amenities, remarkable ambience, innovation and the ability to provide visitors with a truly authentic and all-encompassing Belize experience.
• Small Hotel of the Year
Table Rock Lodge
Winning Criteria: A licensed small hotel with less than ten rooms that captures the essence of warmth and homeliness, displays customer service excellence and utilizes the best environmental practices and sound management.
• Guesthouse of the Year (NEW)
Winning Criteria: A licensed guesthouse with less than 10 rooms which offers superior quality, and a personalized touch in delivering the Belize brand to its visitors.
• Tour Operator of the Year
Ian Anderson’s Cave Branch Jungle Lodge and Adventure Co.
Winning Criteria: A licensed tour operator that offers a variety of tours which excels in service, marketing, creativity, uniqueness, safety, reliability, value for money and exemplifies a strong commitment to sustainable and innovative business practices.
• Cruise Tour Operator of the Year (NEW)
Calypso Train Tours
Winning Criteria: A licensed tour operator which has a specific contract or concession with any cruise line only, offering excellent customer service and safety, with attention to the unique needs of cruise visitors.
• Tour Guide of the Year
Mr. Desmond Ramirez of Belcampo
Winning Criteria: A licensed tour guide with a wealth of knowledge, has the ability to mesmerize an audience, excellent communication and interpersonal skills, positive attitude, creativity, and the ability to provide a world class tour experience.
• Cruise Tour Guide of the Year (NEW)
Mr. Axel Chavin of “Darknight Cave Adventure”
Winning Criteria: A licensed tour guide who specifically caters to cruise visitors, works directly with a cruise operator, conveys the Belize product in a captivating, memorable and dynamic manner, having received specialized training for this niche market, having received distinction from cruise lines for commitment to service excellence.
• Frontline Person of the Year
Mr. Roberto Guerra of “La Beliza Resort”
Winning Criteria: A frontline employee who has unmatched interpersonal skills, the ability to welcome guests with great Belizean hospitality, is product knowledgeable about Belize and provides a memorable experience.
• Restaurant of the Year
Guava Limb Café at Chaa Creek
Winning Criteria: A restaurant that offers a dining experience and not just a meal or a routine. Here, the ambiance is bliss, the menu offers diversity and the service is great. The personality of the restaurant is as distinct as the staff is professional.
• Major Festivals and Events
San Pedro Lobster Festival
Winning Criteria: This award is in recognition of hallmark festivals or events including major exhibitions that: i.) create substantial economic impact, ii.) Attract visitors (local and overseas), iii.) Generate national or international media profile; iv.) Positively promote the destination. They may be one off or recurring.
• Hospitality Award
San Ignacio Resort Hotel
Winning Criteria: A tourism business entity or tourism ancillary organization that offers exceptional service to customers, the ability to manage a business seamlessly, is sensitive to the needs of staff, flexible in adapting to change and accommodating to the industry's needs and offers an authentic top class Belizean experience.
A total of 57 nominations were received this year, doubling last year’s nominees. The judging process included meeting minimum requirements such as valid licenses and tax compliance with Belize Tourism Board. Further assessments were conducted for each category with a point system whereby a panel of judges rated the nominees. Results were tallied and winners were selected.
The highlight of the night were special recognition awards presented to individuals that have been influential in the tourism industry and have set the bar through dedication and hard work. The Minister’s Award was presented to Ms. Mariam Roberson of San Ignacio Resort Hotel for all her dedication in building tourism in San Ignacio Town. The Mrs. Celi McCorkle Award (Formerly the Lifetime Achievement Award) was presented to the late Mr. Gerald “Jerry” McDermott for his contribution to the industry in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. A very emotional and grateful Kelly Kanabar, daughter of Mr. McDermott, accepted the award with pride for her late father and for the island in which she grew up that leads the way for tourism in the country.
Minister's Award honors Mariam Roberson of San Ignacio Resort, received by her sister
Celi McCorkle Award (formerly the Lifetime Achievement Award) recognized the late Jerry McDermott - Daugher Kelly Kanabar received award
Top honors of the evening went to Mrs. Celi McCorkle to mark the milestone of 50 years of tourism in San Pedro and her role in being one of the pioneers on the island. She built the first hotel on the island, opening the gates of tourism to the country.
“It was my esteemed pleasure to be able to present Ms. Celi Nunez McCorkle with the Special Recognition Award for Tourism,” commented Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr. “The Holiday Hotel had just celebrated fifty years of hospitality service to San Pedro and Belize. It is the true pioneers of service in this country like Ms. Celi of the Holiday and Mrs. Elvi of Elvi’s Kitchen who have laid the foundation of quality and service on San Pedro that all the rest aspire to emulate and try to improve on. Celi presented the first ever Celi McCorkle Lifetime Achievement Award which was given posthumously to Jerry Mc Dermott. His daughter, Kelly, accepted the award on behalf of the family. It was a very emotional night for everyone and it was especially meaningful to me as we had laid Don Efrain to rest earlier in the day. Congratulations Celi and all the winners of the Belize Tourism Board Awards and keep inspiring your staff and the tourism industry in Belize on a whole.”