Hotels in Belize are calling for the Philip Goldson International Airport (PGIA) to be reopened on August 1, with the condition that certain protocols be in place. The Belize Hotel Association conducted a survey which polled 140 hoteliers. According to the president of BHA, this number represents 80% of the entire accommodation revenue for Belize. 68% of the 140 hoteliers responded, and 98% of them agreed on the reopening of the airport. Without the reopening, 77% of the respondents have confirmed that they will be forced to terminate some of their employees. Of the 77%, 5 of those respondents indicated that they would have to terminate at least 50 employees. While the respondents recognize the threat of covid-19, they are hopeful that rapid testing and other protocols will be set in order for the tourism industry to slowly resume. Tejada explained the importance of reopening the PGIA as it relates to the financial welfare of hoteliers and their staff.
Ted Tejada, President, Belize Hotel Association: “There is only about 5% of hotels in the country of Belize that have decided to open their doors for local tourism which at this moment is producing business mostly for the weekend; Friday and Saturday and some of it on Sunday. Most of the people are working on Monday to Thursday so we’re not seeing traffic into these hotels and I had shared earlier that in order for a hotel to actually be opened for business the break even point is about 45-45% so they saw that it was going to be impossible for them to open. What we did with the survey to make it effective we sent it on Friday and we closed it yesterday so everybody that wanted and were able to vote needed to vote within that period of time. We have been in contact with the airport where they’re doing at this moment they’re doing great things in order to get the rapid test going. When we open we’re looking at fifteen flights per week, you have to understand as well that it’s not only the country of Belize will say “Lets open the economy and everybody’s going to be coming.” the airlines have a lot of say on this. So American Airlines have stipulated that they’re only going to be allowing one flight per day from Miami, Delta is going to be doing only three flights from the US and Houston we’re going to have five flights from United. In one time we used to have up to twenty six flights on a given Saturday for one Saturday, we’re looking at fifteen flights for the entire week and we believe that is the way to start.”
The president of The Association of Real Estate Brokers of Belize (AREBB), Hugo Moguel, stated that their members are more than ready for the PGIA to reopen. He believes this is necessary in order for the country to build more revenue and to increase foreign exchange.
Hugo Moguel, President, The Association of Real Estate Brokers of Belize: “We keep hearing “We’re not ready. We’re not ready.” that is not an excuse, that is not a reason. We have to prepare ourselves and from reaching out to other stakeholders, primarily BHA and Mr.Tejada we find out that there are creative and practical sollutions for us to be prepared so we can do that and like we rightly said we’re not expecting a flood of people to come into Belize but we need to start somewhere and we need to start now. Now our industry has been very fortunate it’s one that can still transact without people physically being here but that’s a minute percentage of our market and so we’re sustaining right now but real estate is at the base of everything; real estate goes you can count on construction soon after. A lot of people are very interested in Belize want to invest, a lot of Belizeans want to come back home I mean there’s a long list of interested parties so we’re trying to do the best to bring them here and that will bring them revenue. You talk about foreign exchange in the tourism driven areas the amount of transactions that involve foreign exchange is as high as 90% on the mainland it makes 50-70% so we can’t ignore that potential there and we’ve also been calling on ways to cut out bottlenecks in the system primarily at the Lands Department and at Central Bank to free up the flow and get business going and transacted.”
BHA was able to further break down the results of the poll. 67% of their members feel that there should be rapid testing done upon arrival at PGIA; 79% feel that their facilities have the necessary protocols in place for the reopening; and 39% feel that there should be restrictions on travelers from certain areas, including Texas, USA, Mexico, Guatemala and Brazil.