The Belize Rural Development Project (BRDP), funded by the European Union, is targeting rural areas of Belize for needed improvements. Its second phase underlined by the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) proposed to focus on communities benefiting from tourism, specifically those located next to archaeological sites. While there is planned infrastructure work in place, according to Director of Tourism at BTB Laura Esquivel- Frampton, the project will also target the craft market at sites from Lamanai to Actun Tunichil Muknal to Lubaantun.
Laura Esquivel- Frampton – Director of Tourism at BTB:
There are some heavy lifting work as we try to do in a lot of our project in terms of ensuring that our infrastructure is in place, so there will be some infrastructure work at nine archaeological sites but in particular following in line with our national sustainable tourism program, we need to ensure that whatever we do for tourism, we are trying to do it in a sustainable manner and so sustainability as we say isn’t only taking care of the environment, it’s also taking care of the socioeconomic impacts of tourism and ensuring that the people who are adjoining these great tourism sites also have an opportunity to benefit from the tourism product.
Looking at the current program that we even have in place, in order to guide anywhere in this country you must have a tour guide license. So, we are building on that, what we are doing is we are ensuring that because our tour guide course as it stands right now is very knowledge-heavy, you do need to have at least a high school background in order to get through our current tour guide course. So part of this project is to create a community tour guide course which will seek to address those communities that are neighboring these tourism destinations. So this will build a frame work for those who are near those archeological sites but this frame work can also be used for other communities as well and that way we are actively, legally engaging those communities in being able to showcase their product. In addition to that we know through our various village outreach projects or village expo that we have fantastic artisans out there, they just don’t know how to get there items to market and so while we don’t want to focus too much on actually how you knit a bag and how do you sew this and because we have a number of people out there who know how to do these things, it’s how do you take these things then to market; so it’s bridging that marketing gap to get the product that is already out there and that are already good into the hands of the people who want to buy it.
Frampton says it is important to the BTB that craftsmen and women get a chance to market their products to interested buyers, not only tourists. Minister of Tourism Manuel Heredia details project plans and objectives for a $4 million project:
Manuel Heredia – Minister of Tourism:
The project will strategically target and execute the following activity: design and create and implement a database collection and management system to provide a quality management tool at our archeological sites; enact and enforce regional regulation for health and safety standards and produce a manual for implementation of regulation at archeological sites. Improve health and safety provisions and enhance visitor facilities to meet regional standards including enhancement to trails, silent systems and infrastructure and access. Train personnel in health and safety including cave rescuing training. Develop product certification standards, product branding and quality control mechanism for locally produced art and craft.
The project has identified a coordinating team and work is due to commence shortly.