Hotels: they are one of the pillars of Belize’s tourism industry, but they don’t operate in a vacuum. Today at the bi-annual general meeting of the Belize Hotel Association, Minister of Tourism Godfrey Smith laid out his vision of where hotels fit into the bigger hospitality picture. Afterwards he was asked specifically if Belize has the capacity to accommodate the large number of visitors who are envisioned to arrive on charter flights from Europe, once the new runway extension is opened at the Philip Goldson International Airport.
Godfrey Smith, Minister of Tourism
“The simple answer is no, at the same time I don’t expect that the growth that we expect in overnight arrivals from the airport runway project will happen in an explosive way. I think it will be gradual; it has to be gradual because still the level of hotels aren’t there and to get new aircrafts coming into Belize is a science on its own. Currently, the Belize Tourism Board and the Belize Airport Concession Company have contracted an O.A.S. recommended firm called InterVISTAS out of Canada, and basically the procedure is that you have to make a case with the big airlines, they put you on a priority board, and then from there they monitor your upward movement on that priority board. So I wanted to be very clear that the fact that we have a brilliant new runway that can accommodate long-haul flights from Europe or charter flights does not mean that it will happen automatically and overnight, its a process. But the direct answer to your question is if it were to happen the hotel plan could not accommodate what we would hope to get from charters or from Europe.”
“Which brings me to the question, you would have to think then that the construction of a large or several large, by Belize standards anyway, hotels in the one hundred fifty, two hundred room class would be a pre-condition to really expanding that market. A, do you see that as a desirable thing, and B, how realistic is it and what kind of steps will B.T.B. or government be taking to facilitate that?”
“I absolutely believe in the concept of at least one if not more flagship hotels and it is a position I’ve stated on more than one occasions. I believe that we have boasted of tourism growth, which has been real, but somehow the growth to the next level seems to be sluggish. We can’t seem to move to the next level and I think having a major well-known brand, a Four Seasons, a Marriot, a Hilton, whatever the case may be, in Belize is fundamental to moving to that next level if you are to go. I believe that because a big hotel would bring value-added in three different ways. Obviously, the people they would need to construct the building is one thing, but once a one hundred and fifty, two hundred room hotel is created you need people to run it, so you need to train people. Those people won’t all stay, they’ll move and they’ll train more and basically at the end of the day what you will see is a qualitative rise in the quality of service of people involved, the service providers in this sector. Secondly, these big hotels do their own marketing. Local hotels in Belize do their own marketing, but a big Four Seasons, a big Marriot would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on its own marketing as well. So those things taken together would bring value-added and you would experience, in my view, an overall growth in tourism.”
According to Smith, Government has been meeting with a number of international flag hotel operators to induce them to locate in Belize.