The Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) has ten chapters and 400 members across the country. The State of Emergency had roused the US Embassy to advise American citizens in Belize to exercise caution and to avoid parts of Belize City. But the crime situation is bound to have some effect, particularly when googling Belize, it would show our poor murder conviction rate, our world heritage site and our high ranking in the world for countries with the highest murder rate per capita. Love News asked BTIA Executive Director, John Burgos, about the impact to the industry the organization serves.
John Burgos Executive Director BTIA: “It does have an impact, it must have an impact. If I am going to come into Belize for the first time and I google Belize and among them I will be reading 20 articles saying about you know ex spots or tourist being killed or murders. If I heard the legislation in Southside Belize; I wouldn’t know were Southside Belize is, is this where I am going you know and how does that translate to other destinations where I want to visit. If you just search it online and you do your own research I think it would raise a lot of flags. This week you saw the advisory being sent out by the US Embassy. I mean that is going to raise concerns but you know in a way we are very fortunate that a lot of guests come here by word of mouth; in other words someone told them about the wonderful experience, someone explained to them that Belize City is Belize City. When you go to San Pedro that is far from Belize City, when you go to Cayo it’s far from Belize City, you go to Placencia it’s far from Belize City you know but right now one of the fastest growing destinations is Hopkins. We see how the crime is increasing and there is a lot of contributing factors there that has us very concerned. There is a divide between the local population and the population of expats that live there and you know there is a lot of misconception that there is a lot of miscommunication and once again the lack of police present and police efficiency in being able to address the issues I think it has contributed to that gap and that increase in crime. The recent murder of the lady that was here one year retired from Hopkins from all the accounts being shared. She was a little sweet lady, lovely lady, she wanted to work with the community, she wanted to help do different things and her life was taken away. We as Belizeans have to look at it; I mean me I wouldn’t want that happen to my mother, uncle, friend, colleague or coworker you know and your family and that is what we are looking at. If it is going to keep growing it is going to reach to the local population. I mean you hear about the home invasion here in Belize City in areas that you would never consider. People I always felt safe in their home and now you cant feel safe because people are jumping through your windows in early hours of the morning and you are being tied up at your own home and your home is being ransacked and these are locals; that is serious concern so you know. I remain optimistic that we will be able address the issue but it’s going to be a long term plan, strategy in order to alleviate or remove the crime situation.”