On Thursday, April 19th, history was made in Belize when the announcement was made that the very first hard-brand Marriott Residences & Resort would be coming to Ambergris Caye, Belize. Excitement was in the air as guests arrived to the “Blue Casita” on Thursday afternoon, eagerly waiting to hear the big announcement. All signage was shrouded in white cloth to maintain the air of mystery that was present in the moments leading up to the big reveal.
Honored guests included; Ms. Lejia Melanie Gideon – General Manager of Enterprise and Innovation at BELTRAIDE, Rahul Vir – Marriott’s Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean, The Honorable Manuel Heredia – Minister of Tourism & Civil Aviation, San Pedro Mayor Daniel Guerrero, a variety of island residents, island realtors, and other interested parties.
The afternoon began with an invocation by Pastor Ian Zaldivar of The Living Word Church, followed by the singing of the Belizean national anthem by San Pedro resident, Ms. Lizette Alamina. Opening remarks were made by Joel Nagel, co-founder of ECI Development, who has been coming down to Belize since the early 1990’s.
ECI co-founder and CEO, Michael K. Cobb, spoke to attendees about his early memories of Ambergris Caye and the challenges that the island faced in its early years of tourism, sand streets and lack of infrastructure. He continued on to state that, “Progress means change. And waves of change are incredible waves of opportunity”, a statement that is visible here in San Pedro. Since its early days as an off the beaten path destination for adventure travelers, the demographics of the average tourist have seen remarkable changes, with more and more families visiting every year. Cobb continued on to say, “It is an incredible transformation and remarkable maturation of this marketplace…” further emphasizing the demand for products like the Belize Marriott® Residences Ambergris Caye Resort. With new resorts like this one, come additional opportunities for the growing population of Belize to gain career opportunities, valuable job training, and skills from a sustainable and responsible development.
Mr. Rahul Vir, Vice President of Operations for Marriott spoke about the Marriott brands vision for Belize. Vir emphasized their commitment to the environment, stating, “…Understanding the priorities of Belize, one of our core beliefs is making sure that wherever we do business, we make the environment better.”
Ms. Lejia Melanie Gideon of BELTRAIDE spoke of the importance of continued local and international investments in Belize, stating “Belize continues to offer investors an ideal recipe for unprecedented growth and success in tourism…” Gideon emphasized the recent traction that Belize has gained, continually being voted by major news outlets as “a must visit destination” which has led to numerous major hotel chains, like Marriott, to expand to Belize.
The Honorable Manuel Heredia, Minister of Tourism & Civil Aviation for Belize, spoke about the National Tourism Master Plan, which focuses on the future of development of tourism throughout the country, improved airline lift to Belize, and increased marketing of Belize as a tourist destination. Mr. Heredia applauded the Marriott® group for believing in Belize and emphasized his commitment to helping this project and other developments move forward in their pursuits.
Mayor Daniel Guerrero, a longtime supporter of ECI Development, congratulated ECI for its newly announced partnership with Marriott, stating, “This single accomplishment is a major endorsement for our tourism industry and our product, that our island and country has to offer to the rest of the world.” Guerrero also spoke of the injection of over $43 million U.S. dollars that construction of the Marriott Residences Ambergris Caye Resort will bring to the economy of Belize, in turn spurring the creation of hundreds of jobs in the construction and hospitality fields.
The ceremony concluded with the unveiling of the new billboard on Coconut Drive by Michael Cobb, Joel Nagel, Ms. Minister Heredia, Mayor Guerrero, Patrick Hiebert, COO of ECI Development, and Rachel Jensen, VP of Sales & Marketing for ECI Development. After the unveiling of the new billboard, the celebrations continued with delicious food, provided by Island Buzz Café, cold beverages all around, as well as dancing and drumming by the Charikanari Dance Group.