BELIZE CITY, Sat. Oct. 3, 2014–The 4th Village Arts & Craft Expo was held this Saturday at the BTL Park. One hundred and thirty artisans participated in the expo, which is an initiative of the Belize Tourism Board. Among the items which were on exhibition were woven bags, bracelets, and chains; earrings made of cohune; necklaces made of jade; baskets made of jippi jappa; soy wax candles; and oatmeal soaps.
The items are being marketed under the brand “Unique Belize”. Jackie Castillo, Creative Industry Officer of NICH, told Amandala that Unique Belize came out of a project known as MTBCAAS (Making Tourism Benefit Communities Adjacent to Archaeology Sites), which was funded by the European Union. Castillo said, “Unique Belize is a phase of the project that focuses on product development; it took some of the products that were market-ready and improved on it. There were three to four months of training in business development, marketing, identifying trends and prototype development.” Castillo further mentioned, “We were able to develop a brand of unique, authentic Belizean crafts that can be marketed both locally and internationally.”
One of the entrepreneurs, 22-year-old Crystal Samos, told Amandala that she has been in business for nine months. Samos said that she makes coffee beauty products such as scrubs, shampoos and conditioners, and informed us that on October 24, she and representatives from other CARICOM countries will be representing Belize in Grenada at an expo and awards ceremony, at which recognition will be given to various country reps for excellence in different categories.
Arlo Cansino, Coordinator Destination Planning & Development, Belize Tourism Board, told Amandala that the objective of the expo was to “bring artisans and the different industry partners together, to develop the artisans who are very talented but need help in improving their craft; therefore, by having all of them in one place, they can learn from each other and improve their craft, and to give them exposure to the public.”
In his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Dean Barrow said that tourism is the number one industry in Belize. Efforts are being made to develop the industry even further, according to Karen Bevans, Director of the Belize Tourism Board, who told Amandala that they are focusing on marketing, destination development and quality service.
Bevans announced that Coppa Airlines will commence flying to Belize on December 8 from Panama. She noted that, since Coppa has several connections to Europe, South America and the Caribbean travellers will not need a US visa to travel to Belize; instead, they can go through Panama.