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October 16/ 2003
- Press Releases

President Maduro Presents
“Copan 2003” National Tourism Awards

The Honduran Chamber of Tourism (CANATURH), the Office of the President of the Republic and the Honduran Ministry and Institute of Tourism have announced the recipients of the Copan 2003 award - a distinction that honors excellence in private sector tourism development in Honduras.

The award is given in two categories: institutional and individual. In the institutional category the honor went to John Edwars of the Parrot Tree Plantation Project for his innovation to the industry in Honduras. The individual award went to Marina Villamil de Welchez of the Marina Copan Hotel for her pioneering approach to promoting tourism in the Copan region.

Located on the island of Roatan, the Parrot Tree Plantation promises to bring a new level of development to the Bay Islands. Upon completion it will offer visitors a full array of services including a luxury hotel, condominium rentals, vacation homes, a marina, a shopping center, a 1,400m2 health club and spa and five restaurants. Not only will the complex provide foreign and national tourists with an exciting new option for their Bay Islands stay, it will also provide jobs for many Hondurans and will raise the bar on minimum wages. The project has an estimated price tag of $14 million.

Villamil Welchez was selected for the individual award after dedicating more than 50 years of her life to tourism development in Copan Ruinas. With a long list of investments and hard work behind her, she and her family were the first to launch projects for tourism growth in the Copan region. That was back in the 1930s when it first became clear that Copan Ruinas needed a place to stay for visitors to the Mayan Acropolis, soon after Washington’s Carnegie Institute began financing long term restoration projects at the ruins under the leadership of Gustav Stronsvick.

In the 1940s, Don Rafael Villamil’s home was increasingly frequented by visitors to the ruins as a guest house. His daughter Marina took over its management and, not long after her marriage to the dynamic entrepreneur Raul Welchez, transformed the inn into the Marina Copan Hotel.

The Villamil Welchez family later invested in numerous other tourism projects in the region, including Inversiones Turisticas de Honduras, S. de R.L., which operates the Marina Copan Hotel, Hotel La Posada and M.C. Tours, a nationwide tour operator.

Creating and promoting tourism continue to be labors of love for Doña Marina. Today she continues directing, organizing and serving visitors. Even her cooking, its original and exquisite flavors, are a valuable tradition in Copan Ruinas.

The award itself is a bronze reproduction of the renowned Mayan sculpture known as Excentricos. The figure, one of the best-loved at Copan, represents the combination of natural and supernatural powers enjoyed by the great dynasty’s rulers. The original is the largest such sculpture known to the Mayan world and a great symbol of the tremendous artistic and technological advances of the people of Copan.

The statuette was conceived by Honduran sculptor Arnaldo Uguarte, who currently lives in New York City and has given many exhibits there on art inspired by Honduras’ pre-Columbian heritage. The figure is 14 centimeters long and 18.5 centimeters high. It weighs one pound and 13 ounces.

At the awards ceremony, President Maduro recalled his inauguration, which was moved from Tegucigalpa to the Copan metropolis in his first move to promote Honduran tourism worldwide. Since the inaugural ceremony, which was broadcast internationally, Copan Ruinas has enjoyed a steady increase in hotel occupancy, from 40-50 percent to today’s average of 70-80 percent.

“Today tourism continues to grow at more than 20 percent, which makes Honduras the fastest growing country in terms of tourism in the region,” said Maduro.
Hondurans hope that future generations will be able to rely on tourism as a primary source of foreign revenue and jobs.

Also present at the awards ceremony were CANTURH President Raul Welchez and Tourism Minister Thierry de Pierrefeu, accompanied by numerous representatives from the private tourism sector. That evening they also celebrated World Tourism Day.

Other nominees in the institutional category were Sol Air and El Zamorano Eco Parque; in the individual category, Abdala Hilsaca and Mario Lopez Arguello. A special press honor was given to journalist Conny Rocha for her work on the El Heraldo newspaper’s special Tourism 2002 section, and Elan Reyes Pineda for his segment titled “Images of my Land” on the Abriendo Brecha television news show.

Nominees and winners were previously selected by a six-member jury and presented to representatives of Price Waterhouse Cooper, who were present during the selection and tallying process. The winners were not known until sealed envelopes were opened at the awards ceremony.



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