October 16/ 2003 - Press Releases
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.
“Copan 2003” National Tourism Awards
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 Washingtonâ€™s
Carnegie Institute began financing long term restoration projects
at the ruins under the leadership of Gustav Stronsvick.
In the 1940s, Don Rafael Villamilâ€™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 dynastyâ€™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 Hondurasâ€™ 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 todayâ€™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 newspaperâ€™s special
Tourism 2002 section, and Elan Reyes Pineda for his segment titled
“Images of my Land” on the Abriendo Brecha television
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.