The Lodge at Chaa Creek, Belize’s foremost eco resort and, with over 135 staff members, one of the country’s largest private employers, honoured two of its team members for 20 years of service this week.
Owners and general managers Mick and Lucy Fleming reflected on Chaa Creek’s 30 year journey from small family farm to world recognised model for eco-tourism, and, in acknowledging Rupert Harris and Dionicio Tun’s long commitment, stressed that this success was as much the employees’ as their own.
“Chaa Creek is a bit different to other large Belize resorts in that we’ve always had a very strong family focus. As Chaa Creek grew, so did our family, as I think our long term staff members will agree. We experience all the joys, frustrations, responsibilities and feelings of loyalty that any large family does, and Mick and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And guess what? It works, and it works very well” Ms Fleming said.
The Lodge at Chaa Creek recently celebrated its 30 years anniversary as Belize’s first genuine eco resort, growing from a staff of one to 135 maintaining a 365 acre private nature reserve with miles of trails linking 70 Maya archaeological sites including the ancient Maya temple of Tunichilen, Belize’s Natural History Centre, restaurant, lounge, pool, Butterfly Farm, Hilltop Nature Spa, conference centre, stables, canoe fleet and other amenities. It continues to garner international recognition and awards from peers and travel industry professionals such as Conde Nast, the BBC, Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor and others.
Mick Fleming stressed that Chaa Creek’s success has always depended on the commitment of their staff members, many of whom grew up in small villages near Chaa Creek as it developed over the years.
“You often hear businesses praising their staff, but in our case the appreciation goes very, very deeply as we literally grew up along with our employees and their families. In the early days especially when there was hardly any infrastructure or financial resources, we accomplished some extraordinary things through sheer determination, cooperation and a commitment towards each other and Chaa Creek.”
Chaa Creek has a strong emphasis on staff development, and under the Chaa Creek Cares program, overseas training and other opportunities are subsidized by the resort. As a result, many former employees have gone onto starting their own business or taking on managerial positions in Belize’s tourism industry. And as the awards show, many choose to stay on, with five employees having received 20 year awards and over 30 reaching the 10 year mark, a record unmatched by any Belizean resort.
The Flemings said that they hope to show by example that investments in staff, just like investments in sustainable tourism and community development programs, may not be immediately apparent but pay dividends in the long term. Both Messrs Harris and Tun echoed this sentiment and praised the training and sense of belonging they receive as being part of Chaa Creek.
“I feel so honored to be working at one of Belize’s top resorts and 20 years later, it feels like I have just started working here. Mr Mick and Ms Lucy Fleming are great people and I thank them for the opportunity to work with them”, Mr Harris said.