Mundo Maya: Questions and Answers

Based in Belize, Janice Staines Aguilar took over as executive secretary of Mundo Maya in June. She also owns a retail travel agency in Belize City and a wholesale travel firm in Miami. Here, she discusses the Mundo Maya project with contributing editor Marilee Crocker.

TW: Can you explain what Mundo Maya is?

Aguilar: Our first objective is to promote among the private and public sector of our countries [Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and five states in southeastern Mexico] the cultural, environmental and touristic development of Mundo Maya.

It's promoting internally and marketing externally -- with the stress that we need to develop a tourism product that will bring economic benefits to the region and at the same time protect the social, cultural and psychological characteristics of the local communities. [It's] the integration of sustainable tourism and training the technical and professional personnel for the tourism sector. So you see we have quite a big job.

TW: What defines Mundo Maya as a destination?

Aguilar: Each country has different attributes, different attractions. We all still have Maya ruins and Maya communities.

TW: What have been the key accomplishments of the Mundo Maya project so far?

Aguilar: One is that we have brought the five countries of the region together. It has brought an awareness among the five that we do have the product, that we can sell the product and that we have all the necessary attributes to make it happen. We have done a lot of marketing over the years. We have done a lot of institutional development. We have developed brochures and other promotional materials and we have visited trade shows and had other presentations internationally.

TW: Has the Mundo Maya project increased tourism to the area?

Aguilar: I would think so. I know that the word is out there, [though] it still needs a lot more distribution. And I know that people have been asking for circuits, for tours which include the [five] countries. Through Mundo Maya, tour operators have met and have learned to work with one another.

TW: What are your goals during your term?

Aguilar: More institutional development is one. Secondly, marketing. Also we need to see integration of the private sector. Those are our goals.

There's also a lot of sales facilitation we need to do -- things like borders and inter-country transportation are still being worked on.

One thing we feel is of importance is training and product development. We need to train our people so we give quality service. Also, we need to identify the priority areas where we can promote all this, because we do have a limited budget. We also need to incorporate local communities, because the culture plays a very important part.

TW: Why should agents sell Mundo Maya?

Aguilar: The world in general is looking at a different aspect of tourism, a new tourism, and more and more you're finding that people are [pursuing] special interests. People want to go back to nature, and we are nature at its best.

We are community, authentic Indian villages. We give you everything as God intended it to be -- natural, healthy, away from the stress and the lights and glamour, an area where you can relax, be yourself and see the wonders we have. Our biggest attributes are our communities, our people and our natural resources.

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Agents can receive information, including brochures, videos and maps on Mundo Maya by contacting its office in Belize. Mundo Maya, Executive Secretariat, Plaza Theatre Building, Bliss Parade, Belmopan, Belize; (011) 501-8-23783, fax (011) 501-8-22976.

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