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Tourism CEO Comments on the Cruise Tourism Industry

Belize’s busiest day for the cruise industry in 2021 was December 29, where there were a total of six ships docking in Belizean waters. A total of fourteen thousand passengers were brought on the Celebrity Apex, Carnival Pride, Carnival Dream, and Carnival Breeze, the Norwegian Dawn and Norwegian Breakaway. Chief Executive in the Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations, Nicole Solano told Love News today that this was a welcome development.

Nicole Solano, CEO, Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations: “We were actually very pleased with the development within the entire tourism industry from the overnight sectors standpoint as well as from cruise tourism. We’ve been working as we know this whole year to try and bring tourism back to where it was prior to COVID and that has been important as a part of the overall economic recovery for Belize. As you know with the overnight tourism we’ve had increased airlift, increased passengers, the private sector has indicated that the high season so far has been very good and that is also the case with cruise tourism so we’ve seen increase in numbers for this year and especially over the months of November and December so we’re very pleased with the way the numbers have been going up.”

Solano added that not only was this an important milestone for tourism during the pandemic, it also provides some cautious optimism for 2022.

Nicole Solano, CEO, Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations: “The entire Caribbean has been trying to get its cruise industry back on its feet and that is a process that involves not only destinations but also the lines. So we have to work together with other destinations that are on similar itineraries and it’s an entire process, it’s one that we’ve been going through with the other destinations and the lions this entire year. So to come to the end of the year to have that many ships in harbor both in the Belize city harbor and Harvest Caye is a significant win for the destination. Many destinations are open but as you know with COVID and the variance it’s a challenge because we have to make sure that the protocols are in place keep the guests safe come out the guests on the ship as well as our frontline workers and tourism. Early on you know that the tourism industry was very serious about getting its frontline workers vaccinated not only did the ministry and our minister of tourism advocate for the vaccines and their availability very early on but the industry recognized the importance of that and the frontline people themselves did go out and did get vaccinated so we’re dealing with a group of people that are fully almost 100% vaccinated on the ship as well as those inland or on the mainland in the ports.”

However, on Thursday, a day after Belize welcomed those cruise tourists, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an advisory urging all travelers — vaccinated and unvaccinated — to avoid cruise ship travel amidst a record-breaking Covid surge driven by the omicron variant across the United States. The CDC also noted that even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants. We asked CEO Solano if Belize’s cruise industry is ready to take on what most scientists agree is another significant wave of infections with this new strain.

As we noted last week, the BTB said that compared to pre-COVID figures, this December saw close to a 50% recovery rate, capping off an important incremental performance trend for port calls in Belize since July 2021. Promising projections from cruise lines indicate that cruise operations should return to full capacity by the winter season of 2022.