Yesterday, we reported on the Belize Tourism Board’s “Belizean Traveller” program, inviting locals to take advantage of reduced rates on travel, food and accommodations. That is just one of the avenues the industry is banking on to generate much needed tourism revenue. Our News Editor Dale McDougall spoke to the BTB Chairman Evan Tillett about the Government’s prognostications for the industry into the short term.
Evan Tillett, Chairman, BTB: “We are actually in the phase of recovery. The tourism industry was decimated when COVID hit. A lot of industry stakeholders really have lost a lot and so has the economy of Belize and tourism is the beacon of hope. Currently the tourism is on its rebound. We are at a point where we see the numbers increasing. We went from 2,000 we’re up to now 13,000 coming through the airport and the numbers are continuously trending up. We expect that the pent up demand that’s out there that Belize is poised and is in a position in terms of strategic location, English speaking, having a world class product that we will be able to benefit greatly from when people decide to travel again. With the vaccination happening globally and particularly in the US which is our primary market people are more comfortable to travel and so Belize needs to get ready for that and so the BTB has developed a recovery plan that focuses on a number of things. Having some subsidies or incentives that assist the industry to get back because we need all the hotels, we need the tour operators, we need the tour guides and so the BTB in that recovery plan focuses on assisting those people. The Gold Standard is a critical part of getting ready for when tourism really restarts, it sends a message to the world that Belize is ready for tourism, that Belize is a safe destination and we need to encourage people to get vaccinated because if we are vaccinated particularly in the tourism industry then we send the message that we are a safe destination and that is one of the key things that people think of when they’re deciding if they’re going to travel or not.”
An important part of attracting foreign tourists to the country is increasing airlift by major international carriers. Alaska Airlines, for example, announced that it will add Belize to its roster starting in June. Tillett hopes that additional airlines will come on board to make Belize more accessible to the rest of the world.
Evan Tillett, Chairman, BTB: “Airlift is the lifeblood of any tourism destination and so we have an airline development committee that sole focus is to get the airlift that we had pre COVID to come back to Belize and we have been successful on that. We are also looking to expand the air lift capacity for Belize. When you do that then you make the access to Belize easier and the travel to come here much more accessible. In terms of the announcement yesterday with Alaska Air which is one of our key partners in terms of growing tourism in Belize it is significant because it’s coming from new destinations, it’s coming from the west coast and it provides new routes that weren’t there before. We are also looking at other destinations in Mexico, Europe to try and get air lift from those places so that Belize can benefit from that.”
In addition to Alaska Airlines, Copa Airlines is also expected to resume flights to Belize in June.