The tourism industry came to a halt during the COVID-19 pandemic. With borders closed and people forced to stay inside, hotels had no choice but to close their doors. As State of Emergency restrictions continue to ease down, local tourism is slowly beginning to pick up. Reporter Courtney Menzies found out how some hotels are coping during this time.
Courtney Menzies, Love FM News: Hoteliers around the country are no doubt rejoicing at the latest announcement from the Prime Minister that outdoor dining and swimming in pools will now be allowed. This follows the announcement from about two weeks ago that hotels could open their doors to Belizeans. With this move hoteliers are hoping to strengthen local tourism in order to boost their revenues which will in turn positively affect the country’s economy. While this is good news for tourism stakeholders the president of the Belize Hotel Association Ted Tejada forecasted that hotels will continue to feel the economic impacts of COVID-19.
Ted Tejada, President, Belize Hotel Association: “The hotels, 99% of them ended up closing their doors especially during the lock down we were not able to sell any food nor were we able to sell any rooms to anyone not to locals or internationals. Every single hotel in the country of Belize will continue to operate at a loss for the next three months I would say. We do not see anywhere where the tourism will come back, the borders are still closed the Prime Minister announced, they’re going to be looking at the airport as he said on July first but Belize needs to get a rapid test machine prior to us opening and we agree with him. So at this moment in time every single avenue of our tourism is closed with the exception of local tourism. Our local tourism for any hotel represents about 10% and any hotel around the world in order for them to actually break even they need to start operating about 45% so even if we were to reach at 10% hotels will continue to lose money because between the gap of 10-45% is still big.”
Courtney Menzies, Love FM News: One major hotel in Belize, The Radisson Fort George and Marina, definitely felt the economic impacts of COVID-19. The general manager Sandra Grisham – Clothier stated that during the lock down their revenues were only trickling in.
Sandra Grisham- Clothier, General Manager, Radisson Fort George: “Well our first response was try and figure out how to help, how to get us all out of this and that’s why we decided that we would take on housing the Cuban doctors and nurses and any Belizeans that needed a place to be self quarantined. So we started off that way and that bring a small amount of revenue which again was survival and that was what we wanted to do. Where we’re at right now though is changed. I mean yesterday was some great news so we’re wading through it and now we’re putting in new protocols, we’re opening up our restaurants but we’re designing it for Belizeans. Our prices are being designed for Belizeans, the hours of operation are of course within the letter of the law of what we can and can’t do.”
Courtney Menzies, Love FM News: Now that they’re opening up various services Grisham- Clothier stated that everything in the hotel rooms as well as the entrance and garden area of the hotel are sanitized. Tejada also reiterated that it is important for hotels to accommodate Belizeans with their rates.
Ted Tejada, President, Belize Hotel Association: “We have always had a Belizean special and we have always encouraged all our hotels to create a Belieans package. Our Belizeans at the end of the day we cannot afford to pay the same prices as the international tourist pays so most of the hotels they will ask you for some form of identification to make sure that you’re a Belizean for you to qualify for a Belizean rate but we have even went back further and said we need a rate which is COVID-19 type rate.”
Courtney Menzies, Love FM News: Both general managers encouraged Belizeans to continue taking part in local tourism.
Sandra Grisham- Clothier, General Manager, Radisson Fort George: “Have the attitude that we have at the Radisson. My staff last week we had happy hour on Friday which we’re having again tonight but most of the sales were from us. We all have to try and keep our money in Belize and buy as much as we can from each other and frequent different restaurants. You know this isn’t just about the Radisson it’s about all of us.”
Ted Tejada, President, Belize Hotel Association: “We’ve been locked down too long. Over forty days when you’re at home and you really cannot do anything there’s a state of mind that we all go into. We need to get out there and breath fresh air. There are beautiful resorts throughout all the country of Belize not only the resorts we have beautiful attractions, we have some of the best cave systems in the entire world, we have the second longest living barrier reef in the entire world, our seas are crystal clear so Belize as a country has some of the best attractions there is. Not only that at this moment none of our kids are in school so they’re at home they need to get out there do some horseback riding, canoeing so we’re encouraging our Belizeans to practice social distance, practice all the mediums of protection that we need to do but at the same time take the opportunity to visit and explore Belize as our country.”