On Saturday, December 1st the Immigration Department began implementation of a new fingerprinting system for passengers arriving at the Philip Goldson International Airport. The process triggered a huge delay especially since there were over fifteen flights arriving to Belize on that day. It caused a great inconvenience to passengers but they were not the only ones affected. Tour operators and Hoteliers experienced some distress as well. Executive Director John Burgos explains.
Executive Director John Burgos: “We were made aware of the issue on Saturday because we began to receive calls and complaints directly from some of the tour operators and some of the hoteliers especially the ones out of district and in private resorts that have specific schedules that they have to follow in order to get the people in before it gets dark. If you are catching a Tropic Air flight to some of the destinations or a Maya they are not suitable for night flights so that means that if you get stuck there when the sun goes down you would then have to spend in the night in Belize City which is unfortunate to many because they are looking to wake up at the destination that they are going to be spending their vacation and also for boat transfer for some of the private island resorts that they have to leave a certain time because of the different conditions that the sea presents in the evening so it is a safety and security issue as well. We have been in discussion with various players as to see what is the key route of the problem. As of yesterday I received word from the Ministry of Tourism that the Immigration Department is going to have their full staff this weekend to ensure that the transition and the processing will be done in a timely manner. We do know that the airport has certain limitations to deal with the volume of people coming in. On Saturday we had 22 flights, each flight brings about 100 people so you are talking about over 2000 people that were coming at the same time, there were some delays and then some flights came at the same time but still for the size of airport that we have we should not be having 2-3 hour delays. So the Immigration Department has ensured us that they are going to be having a full staff in operation this weekend to ensure that that doesn’t repeat itself so we are going to wait and see how that goes over this weekend. The high season is just beginning to kick into gear which means the large volumes of visitors is going to increase so we have 22 flights, you are going to have more heads on each of those flights so it is a major concern because of the inconvenience and it’s an additional cost also because if you have to make arrangements and if somebody misses their connecting flight internally or their boat transfer then they have to spend a night here in Belize and that is an additional cost of the hotelier and the tour operator. So we are looking forward for government to understand the importance of the matter and that they are able to make the necessary adjustments.”