An estimated sixty law enforcement officers are engaged in a 4-day workshop at the Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel in Belize City with a focus on tourism security. The workshop comes after an assessment conducted earlier this year in an effort to find the security needs in the tourism sector in Belize. Andrea Rodriguez is a Project Officer attached to the Organization of American States. According to Rodriguez the OAS is looking at security holistically.
“The way we see tourism security in the OAS and the way that member states have determined this area is to look at it as a multidimensional approach not only looking at the crime side but also try to involve the social side of it, the economic side of it and this is why in this project we are aiming to promote public private partnerships we are looking to work together with the public and private sectors because we understand that there are each of them have capacities that the other may not have and we are trying to find ways that they can collaborate better so that they can strengthen that security. So the way we look at tourism security is not only to protect the foreign tourists but to also look at the receiving communities because at the end of the day they are going to be the first ones exposed to the threats or the things that may happen they are also going to be receiving the tourists so we are trying to look at it as comprehensive as possible.”
Rodriguez explained that this conference falls under two of the four pillars of the OAS, adding that there are similar sessions being held in other member state countries.
“The OAS has four main pillars which are human rights, democracy, development and security so I would say that it falls under two of those pillars; development and security. Like I was saying within the secretary of Malta which is where SICTA falls under we are not only looking at the security but also at development and economic side of it so I would say that it falls under two of the pillars of the OAS. This is a three year project that we are not only doing here in Belize, it’s a project supported by the government of Canada in Belize specifically for these components. After we do these workshops we do a three month evaluation to try to assess and get some feedback on how the workshop was perceived by the participants, if they are incorporating new abilities and capacities that we are trying to leave here and install in their daily functions and then after that we are always open to receiving requests from the governments because we understand that this may be like a phase one stage and we have received some requests in the past to develop tourism security plans at a national level or at a local level or sometimes countries want to develop for a specific destination so that is going to depend on what the request that we receive is.”
With participation from the departments of Customs and Excise, Immigration, Belize Police Department, NEMO and Belize Tourism Board and other agencies, Rodriguez spoke of what the participants should take away with them and how the 4-day sessions should improve the public/private sector collaboration and working relationship.
“The main focus in this project is to promote public private partnerships. We understand that sometimes the relationships not only here in Belize as we have seen in most of the member states their membership within the private sector and public sector is not necessarily an easy one so what we are trying to do here is build trust between those two sectors and we have seen in other member states we have delivered these capacities, they end up doing real partnerships. In Mexico for example they formed center for Attention and Protection for tourists where they were able to form a public private partnership and they have a physical facility and you have psychological, medical attention and if something happens to you you have police represented there so that would be an example of what we are looking to install here in Belize.”
The 3-day assessment in July looked at the priority needs of the stakeholders. Presentations are being made on the Tourism Security and Strategy at the Fort Street Area as well as CARICOM’s Crime and Security Strategy, Maritime Incident Prevention and Responses and Police-led Intelligence. The workshop concludes on Thursday evening with Friday set aside to take the participants to a Maya temple for a first-hand look at operations.