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#316047 - 12/27/08 12:30 PM Eye on Tourism
Marty Offline
The U.S. recession has definitely placed a strain on the tourism industry throughout the entire country and no other place is feeling this pinch a bit more than Ambergris Caye whose residents highly monitor the highs and lows of the industry. The town of San Pedro highly depends on the tourism dollar and whenever tourist numbers fall, residents become concerned about their livelihood. This is very much so the case this year as the beginning of the peak of the tourism season got off to a rocky start.

Reports coming in from the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) are that there has been a significant decline in the number of visitors coming into the country. The BTB is keeping a close eye on the situation and has reported that there have been layoffs at various hotels and resorts around the country. In the south in Placencia, it is known that at least three hotels have sent home about 100. In the west, there are also reports of layoffs and here in San Pedro A.C. many resorts are cutting back on staff. The Belize Hotel Association is tallying the numbers and the Belize Tourism Board is currently conducting its own survey to see which tourism destinations are experiencing the slump.

The topic of conversation here in town is usually about how people are seeing the arrivals. "How do you see the arrivals and bookings?" At the moment, things point out to a good end of year with plenty of bookings and visitors roaming the island. But what everyone fears is what will happen after the New Year celebrations when they tourists head back home. There is no foresight into figures of arrivals beyond next month as hotel personnel indicate that bookings are coming in last minute and not in advance like most seasons.

“We are working with hotels and doing our own survey of what their booking figures are looking like," commented Laura Esquivel, Director of Marketing for the BTB. "What we’re seeing right now is a trend of not so much advanced booking. We’re seeing a lot of bookings that’s coming in the last two to three weeks before people will be arriving. In the past we saw people booking like six months in advance, four months in advance."

There are some businesses that are for some reason, doing worse than others," she continued. "We actually have—I just went and I checked with some of the staff about the surveys—we have some hotels that are saying that they have numbers higher than last year. So it’s just a question of the demographics of where you’re marketing to and those kinds of things that are playing a role right now in the kind of tourism that each individual property is seeing.”

Here in San Pedro it seems that hotels and restaurants are not laying off people, but have placed some non-essential staff on an extended leave until things get better. All the Caribbean countries that primarily focus their marketing on the United States market are really seeing declines. Some countries are seeing as much as 20% decline in their numbers. Laura Esquivel says that our numbers are not that dismal as yet.

"In fact, in November, we were only down by 1.1% which, I know that that still hurts the industry but in comparison to the other countries that are seeing 15%, 20% decline, having a 1% down in November, which is the beginning of our season, isn’t all that bad considering where we focus our marketing," said Esquivel. On the other hand, the country has seen an increase in its European and Canadian visitors.

The real peak of the season comes around February and March when the weather is even better and many US residents are running from the cold weather there. The BTB says that it has been doing a lot of pushing in the European and Central American markets, primarily Mexico and hoping that within the next year the country can balance off any trends that are happening within the United States.

In the meantime, residents here are being very cautious and holding back on spending during the holiday season. The general consensus is that the tourist dollar is being spread thin amongst the number of hotels, restaurants and other businesses on the island. Word over the weekend is that over 500 island residents left the island to head home to their families for the Christmas weekend. This will definitely impact business and according to others in the industry, many more employees can be sent home immediately following the New Year's Day when visitors begin to head back home. All that we can hope is for good numbers for the holidays and have a positive outlook for the coming year. Until then we will just have to keep a close eye on tourism arrivals on a month by month basis.

Ambergris Today

#316074 - 12/28/08 02:19 AM Re: Eye on Tourism [Re: Marty]
Greenthumb Offline
Thanks Marty,
I have just booked my flight down for Jan 3rd.. Like your report says I waited for the "Last minute" to book my flight. The reason was not whether or not to come but when the best price was to book... I had Flight miles to fall back on but did not have to use them as I was able to find a better price per mile by paying my way down and saving my miles for another trip... We are planning another trip in beginning of march to Belize(as I have spoken about in my Post in "Living in Belize" under 'Moving to Belize and owning a business'..

As for the economy here, I would know doubt believe that tourism will be down this coming year or two for Belize and really the rest of the favorite and maybe all vacation locations around the world as people here are reavaluting there priorities and what they want... But overall people want to go somewhere WARM and escape from reality!!!! I think they should come to Belize!!


#316128 - 12/28/08 01:22 PM Re: Eye on Tourism [Re: Greenthumb]
JeanH Offline
I really think the high airfares must hurt tourism in Belize. $900.00 to Belize, $350.00 to Cancun. A bus from Cancun isn't practical if you only have a week.

#316229 - 12/29/08 11:34 AM Re: Eye on Tourism [Re: Marty]
wilske Offline
Belize could cushion some of the impact if they could focus on getting tourists from other countries. It's painful to get to Belize from Canada. There would be more visitors from that country alone if there was one direct flight. Not sure how people arrive from European countries, but as a Canadian I don't want to transfer in the US, it's too much time and quite often layover.

#316264 - 12/29/08 03:18 PM Re: Eye on Tourism [Re: wilske]
Northern Canuck Offline
I agree wilske. If Belize could negotiate something with WestJet out of Toronto and Vancouver that would be perfect. Reasonable price, direct flight and great service. I know Grenada and Tobago W.I. have the same problem. Americans and Canadians have to connect somewhere so they are few and far between but the Brits and Germans have direct flights so those islands are catering to them.

#316266 - 12/29/08 03:27 PM Re: Eye on Tourism [Re: Northern Canuck]
krehfish Offline
Wouldn't a direct flight from Canada then require a refueling in BZE? I'd understood carrier's avoid that.
Flyfishing my way through mid-life crisis.

#316281 - 12/29/08 04:19 PM Re: Eye on Tourism [Re: krehfish]
SP Daily Offline
Belize doesn't have the necessary setup to refuel a big plane.

#316302 - 12/29/08 06:48 PM Re: Eye on Tourism [Re: SP Daily]
reaper Offline
Yes they do, jesse.

#316303 - 12/29/08 07:00 PM Re: Eye on Tourism [Re: reaper]
Don Greife Offline
It seems that I remember seeing both AA and Cont refueling at the BZ airport. The price of this fuel must "out of this world". Still $385r/t from Kansas City to Cancun. Of course the Mexicans are most probably "still" subsidising the airlines with fuel. It is also probable that the $250 worth of fuel gets the Mexicans at $3500/week tourist. Pretty good investment I'd think. I also think the BTB could do the same if wanted to. Kinda makes me wonder what the BTB plans to do with the $1.5M they will spend boosting the tourist trade. Antbody have any suggestion as to how they might best spend the money?
I'll be happy to discuss my avatar with anyone who knows what it is.

#316325 - 12/29/08 08:38 PM Re: Eye on Tourism [Re: Don Greife]
Peter Jones Offline
Reaper posted elsewhere recently, I believe, that aviation jet fuel costs much the same in Belize as elsewhere. I doubt if that's true of avgas used by piston engines, though. Reaper?

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