Thursday, August 27, 2009


*** Falconview Annex containing two furnished apartments and a dormitory, also a vegetable nursery and warehouse and storage rooms.
*** Hammock room.


We got a notice in the registered mail today, of a FINE for a $100, for an improper submission of hostel guests filling out the Belize Tourist Board registration form. That sort of was the parting of the ways, the straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak. We had invested $350,000 dollars and about 8 years in building a genuine, designed and built from scratch, HOME BUSINESS for traveling ADVENTURE HOSTEL, for young,adult backpackers, in Western Belize . We've been operating about three years.

As we had planned it, the idea was that the HOSTEL would give us some company of young people ( we are retired ) and hopefully make enough to pay the utility bills and the different trade and business licenses required. We were not looking to live off any profits or anything like that. Low budget tourism is not the way to get rich. I’ve been in this business since 1964 and indeed was one of the original tourism pioneers of the country of Belize . All my Belizean children are in tourism, if not as a main endeavor, as a small sideline business. As a family group we have over a million dollars invested, if not more.

The $100 FINE demand this month, from the Belize Tourist Board disturbed my equilibrium and perhaps it is FATE telling me I have outlived my time in this world. Or it is time to change life styles again? Belize is getting to be a too over regulated place, from my viewpoint. Certainly I interpret the BTB FINE of a $100 , as it is time to make a fateful change of course once again, in my life choices. You can run a home business that doesn’t make a profit, but you can’t run a home business that has NEGATIVE CASH FLOW. We view the BTB FINE as an abuse of power and common sense and NEGATIVE CASH FLOW. Instead of upgrading their reporting guest registration forms, to fit the industry requirements, they choose to apply government bureaucratic institutionalized EXTORTION, from our viewpoint. We went through this in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s with the Income Tax Department of the time, that started with one unwarranted tax assessment, or a court case, that escalated over a number of years to repeated tax assessments in one year, when they needed to squeeze money out of people. It was plain EXTORTION and we view this with the BTB as the same thing. The Belize CABINET later modified the Income Tax laws, but by then we had sold out and closed our business of the time and moved on to something else. Our personal family philosophy is that, business has to be enjoyable. You need to enjoy what you are doing. It has to be FUN! Having young adults traveling the world stay with us, is always fun for us. We get to hear their stories and give a bit of old sage advice and so forth. Many e-mail us from all corners of the world telling us their latest exploits. We enjoy getting those e-mails. It is like having an extended family. I get more e-mails from tourists who have been here, than from my own 14 grandchildren.

As Belize has grown, the new government institutions have flourished in size, quantity and regulation also. I have trouble living like that. Which is one reason nowadays the wife and I go traveling through Guatemala ; things are more laid back, like the days of my youth in Belize , and people not so drawn up in complicated regulations. We stay at HOSTELS and HOSPEDAJES in Guatemala and only sign our names and country of origin.

One of the bones of contention I have with the Belize Tourist Board, is their guest registration forms are designed for HOTELS and not for HOSTELS that use dormitories and bunk beds. We cannot interpret their form for filling out, in the section we are responsible for. The form is designed to be filled out on the top half by the visiting guest and the bottom is filled out by the Hotel operator ( not a hostel operator) . The top half filled out by the guest requires too much private information from my viewpoint. The major bone of contention is the line requiring a passport number, date of issue, place of issue. I’ve traveled the world. Normally travelers do not have a passport handy and passport numbers and date of issue and place of issue is normally done by Immigration officers at point of entry and departure to a country. Not while traveling inside a country. Few of our low budget tourists have a passport handy. They have either left it some place in the country while they explore locally, or simply have it secreted and buried in their baggage so it doesn’t get stolen. Either way, few tourists fill out that part of the form. Neither do my wife and I, when traveling anywhere either, except in police states. Last time I looked, Belize was a democracy and not a dictatorship and police state. A person did not have to walk around carrying their passport. Maybe Belize has changed without me knowing it? Whatever the reason, we are getting FINED for improper filling out of the Belize Tourist Board form, as far as I can tell? The intent of the Belize Tourist Board registration form is to make sure they get their ACCOMMODATION TAX. Plus some statistical collection, which I doubt they use. Most of the time, we do not charge tourists the Accommodation Tax, but simply pay it out of our pocket at the end of the month. These are young tourists on tight budgets and we empathise with them. That said, we don’t cheat on our taxes, nor have any inclination, or need to do so. It’s not our style.

That said; the FINE of $100 dollars by the Belize Tourist Board, for improper form filling out, or something, or other, caught us by surprise. We find it offensive! In our world of the olden days, government bureaucracies are servants of the people and in our view they are paid salaries to serve and to assist and render service, if they are unhappy with some confusion, or with what we are doing, they help to resolve the issue. To be FINED is an insult to us! We do our best with all good intentions!

Never mind that I don’t agree with the form the Belize Tourist Board designed for our business, which I regard as unsuitable and does not fit our operational circumstances. One doesn’t win an argument with a bureaucratic government institution allowed by law, to write their own regulations, interpret their own regulations and fine people for not filling out correctly to somebody’s satisfaction, the form in the manner demanded by some clerk.

Our tourism business is low volume and low budget. It should be high volume and low budget. It does not pay therefore on low volume, to have a full time staff member paid to stand at the reception desk, filling out forms. This is a family operation and only one small side activity during the month of many other activities, we are carrying on at the same time, that have nothing to do with tourism. We are usually too busy settling in guests and selling them on the tourist tours and adventures available by local tour operators. Our philosophy is to have seven small business ventures, each contributing something according to season. We don’t have that yet, but working on it. From the whole then, we expect a comfortable living, without straining too hard.

We had a good family discussion over that $100 FINE from the Belize Tourist Board. We unanimously decided to pay the fine and not fight it in court. The RISK to REWARD ratio projection is that penalties would increase exponentially and more often. Too risky too continue! But the kicker is; we decided to CLOSE down the FALCONVIEW BACKPACKER ADVENTURE HOSTEL business. Once started by any government department, the EXTORTION will continue and accelerate, this has been our experience in Belize . We no longer wish anything to do with the Belize Tourist Board. They are not NICE people! That means our advertising of Western Belize in books, articles and newsletter BLOGS, e-mails and listserves, tourist guide books also will be removed worldwide. We’ll take off all the tourist websites for Western Belize . We must have a couple of hundred of them? The BLOG alone has over 500 articles and photographs. Boy that is going to take a couple of days to delete, item by item? It did some good advertising though as the statistics show around 2 million hits in two years, for information on Western Belize . The $100 BTB FINE took the FUN OUT OF THE BUSINESS. For us, it is some mindless idiotic legalized extortion. We just don’t do business with criminals, whether they are legal, or not. Just a philosophy of life. Life is too short for the aggravation in our view. Move on to something else, we’ve had an interesting three years at it.

The TOURIST HOSTEL business we can easily live without. The big investment in a special designed building is something else. We did plan to make the facility multi-purpose, adaptable to different type home businesses. We had intended to be able to operate more than one business out of here in the same space. We’ve tried several other small business ventures, which have failed. The current one we are enthused about, which is a USA based business, done through the internet, is succeeding experimentally, but we cannot get the internet service here in Santa Elena Town needed to make it work properly. We have at least three other business venture ideas we want to try, but they mostly require being done in Guatemala, where the investment environment is more business friendly than here in Belize. We have been agonizing on how to proceed. The wife meantime tonight has been planning to convert the previous Hostel dining room area into a weaving and loom area. She currently has her loom and weaving projects in our house kitchen area, which makes it cramped. She's going to move the FUTON to the hammock and TV living room. Plus her sewing machine apparatus. Her brother Gustavo is going to move permanently with all his things into one of the furnished apartments. He’s been sleeping there anyway on a temporary basis when we had no guests, for privacy. If we can find a way to get internet out here somehow in the next couple weeks, I’ll make the dining area for tourists into a trading room. Perhaps we shall dismantle the bunk beds and store them in the warehouse, just in case we find affordable real estate on the North Side of Lake Izabel next month September and can build another hostel over there, or one of so many other business ideas we have to try? There is a lot more low budget tourism, both local, regional and international, in Guatemala and the planes from Europe to Guatemala City are full with tourists, mostly year round, unlike Belize . We’re excited about exploring the hot springs in the hills of Lake Izabel and the 25 mile long Rio Dulce gorge that is starting to boom with internal Guatemala City tourism visitors. As an excuse for an adventure, contemplating another hostel tourist business is a good enough excuse to go on a business vacation. Robert Smith, with my old vessel, the 'Winnie Estelle' also quit the tourist business in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye late last year, after several decades and is parked in a Rio Dulce marina. We can stay aboard the 68 ft Winnie Estelle and explore and adventure from there. We want a business trip to Mexico also. Got a great idea for a food packaging business inside Western Belize, but need cottage industry technological help to make it work here in Belize . Got a product source and market already. Just the processing machinery and packing know how, is the problem. If my neighbor can run a cheese factory in a DFC house across the street here in Hillview successfully, then I suppose we should be able to do our own specialty food product also? It kind of sounds like a lot of work, I’d rather not physically get involved with though. Or failing Lake Izabel as a hostel venture real estate location, or the Rio Dulce gorge, we will re-visit the mountains around Coban and re-examine the CARDOMOM spice specialty niche business? If we can find a cheap house to buy? Tea bags maybe, or herbal drinks for the Arabian market. There are so many business opportunities, it staggers the mind. It’s a great world, if you don’t let clerks in the Belize Tourist Board get you down ( grin ) ?

C’est la vie! FATE has strange ways of re-directing your energies and choices in life. The thing is to recognize the signals when they happen. What do you think? Nobody will miss our tourist business out Western Belize here. Though we like to think we helped with advertising and organizing the tourist trade through here, over the last three years. People go out of business in Belize all the time. Nobody will miss our business. Except backpacker adventurers, traveling with old guide books. Drat! We just got another booking from HostelWorld in Ireland in this email session. Going to have to notify those European agents today, to take us off their websites. Should have the signs uprooted on the highway by late Friday. We are officially out of business.

( We'll send this letter off with a Postal Money Order for the $100 BTB FINE next week. Probably Tuesday or so and end this squabble with BTB once and for all. ) We've tried to comply but their system, doesn't comply with our system. In the conflict, we must quit! They hold all the power. Our only choice is to quit the business. Any suggestion improvements to the letter before we send it off, would be welcomed. We are officially out of business now.

( suggested letter copy )

To: REGISTRAR of Hotels and Tourist Accommodations

From: Falconview Backpackers Adventure Hostel ( Western Belize )

Re: OFFENCE VIOLATION TICKET received by registered mail on August 25, 2009. FINE for $100.00

To Whom it May Concern: ( Registrar of Hotels and Tourist Accommodations )
Your offence violation ticket for $100.00 disturbed us greatly. After review of the violations listed, and re-checking the regulations, we came to realize there is no way that we could ever be 100% in tune with the regulations in the ACT. There would always be something we would be in violation of. It is the nature of broad based complex legislation and the type of simplified Backpacker business we have, and the inadequate standardized forms issued by the Belize Tourist Board to fill out, that do not fit our business flow criteria. We find ourselves unable to comply with the regulations 100%.


Enclosed please find the $100 VIOLATION FINE by postal money order. Since we do not wish to carry the $100 monthly VIOLATION FINE as a monthly expense of doing business and the aggravation involved, with arguing with clerks about it. We have decided to CLOSE THE BUSINESS and will be notifying all our customers and advertising agents, booking agents of same, and European and USA travel book publishers. Websites will be closed down and road signs removed probably by the end of this week. If you know of anybody wants to buy six or seven dormitory, double,wood bunk beds, let us know. We wish to sell them!

The building is also for sale!

Sincerely and with best wishes

( formerly ) Falconview Backpackers Adventure Hostel ( Western Belize branch )
Proprietor: Ray Auxillou

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