Annual Tourism Presentation: industry in good health

The B.T.B. and B.T.I.A.’s annual tourism presentation was hosted in Corozal Town this morning. Along with a respectable growth in tourism numbers, the industry was celebrating other achievements. There are more tour guides and hotel rooms than in past years and the Ministry of Tourism announced that it has just secured an eleven million Belize dollar loan for infrastructural development through Taiwan’s International Cooperation for Development Fund. News Five’s Isani Cayetano has a report.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The Thirteenth Annual Belize Tourism Industry Presentation, a consortium of stakeholders from across the travel business, was held this morning in Corozal Town.  Officials from the Ministry of Tourism, the Belize Tourism Board, as well as the Belize Tourism Industry Association gathered at Tony’s Inn where they took a progressive look at the year ahead.  The focus remains on the tourism master plan which was formulated a few years ago.

Laura Esquivel

Laura Esquivel, Director of Tourism

“The development of national connectivity.  The National Sustainable Tourism Master Plan identifies some constraints to tourism development as being poor level of accessibility by land and air.  It goes on further to say that further input from the tourism sector should be allowed in terms of accessibility and transportation infrastructures.  While the B.T.B. is not an implementer, we can be the conduit and lobby via the Ministry of Tourism and Culture for the creation of the ministerial council which is spoken about in our master plan and then through that lobby for our access to our destinations, improved infrastructure and of course improvements at all of our arrival sites.”

According to Minister of Tourism Manuel Heredia, in line with what has been identified by the Director of Tourism, government has secured outside funding for initiatives dealing with infrastructure development locally.

Manuel Heredia Jr.

Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism

“The ministry is also in the process of negotiating other cooperation agreements to support the development of tourism infrastructure with key international partners.  Just this week, in fact, the ministry was successful in securing an eleven million dollar project through the Taiwan International Cooperation Development Fund for the upgrading of the House of Culture and the preservation of other historical buildings in Belize City.  Four million is being discussed with BRDP to look at other community-based tourism initiatives for both northern and southern Belize.”

But while works are in progress to further improve the industry, there are significant developments to report on within the business.

Manuel Heredia Jr.

“In 2013, we saw an increase of twenty-one point two percent in the number of tour operators in Belize and eight point four percent growth in license accommodations establishing, meaning that the one thousand, four hundred license tour guides and thousands of Belizean hospitality workers could have more opportunity for meaningful employment in 2013/2014.  This is a testament to what is possible when we the public and private sector work in close collaboration to ensure that tourism remains a national priority.  In 2013, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and the Belize Tourism Board reaffirmed its commitment to being of service to this industry.  This approach is grounded in the principle of good governance that exercises all its powers to create an enabling environment for those that we are mandated to serve.”

Equally of note is that arrivals in both cruise and overnight tourism are on the increase.  That sentiment was echoed by the keynote speaker who emphasized the need for sustainable tourism.

Bonita Morgan

Bonita Morgan, Keynote Speaker

“The region as a whole at the end of 2013, we are not going to go higher than a three percent in increase in arrivals and some of our destinations are going to have, have registered a flat performance in 2013. So it has to be that you are doing something right within Belize in terms of working together—public and private sector—to make sure you take advantage of whatever opportunities are out there to bring visitors into your country. So congratulations to you because as I said that is to what is happening in the rest of the Caribbean. Now, companies and businesses are talking about a different kind of tourism and the words they are using and the properties that I am staying at in Belize City is speaking the language too; they are talking responsible tourism. Responsible tourism is a component of sustainable tourism development in terms of the kinds of businesses we are developing. And businesses all over the world are talking about this triple bottom line: where you are talking about profit yes, but also people and planet. So we are looking at this triple bottom line as something that we need as responsible businesses and in our cause responsible tourism businesses to pay attention to.”

Channel 5