As we’ve been reporting, 2016 has been a rough year for Belize’s image as a tourist destination, but 2015 was a bumper year, according to BTB’s
figures. Today the Belize Tourism Board sent a release with a recap of their tourist numbers for 2015. The report focused on the number of overnight
tourism which showed a strong increase in the last two quarters of the year when compared to 2014. In September there was an increase of 19.3%, in
October 22.1%, in November 33% and in December 22.5 %. BTB also makes note that the November increase of 33% is the largest increase ever recorded for
that month, which rarely goes above 10%. Furthermore in December BTB recorded a total of 39,977 overnight visitors to Belize- the closest number to 40
thousand tourists that a month has ever recorded in overnight arrivals.
There were several things that factored in to the record breaking performance of 2015 as it relates to overnight tourism. One of them is the
introduction of two new flights to Belize: South West and COPA Airlines.
Now in the area of cruise passenger arrivals BTB recorded a minor dip of 1% .This translates into 3,070 fewer passengers arriving in Belize in 2015
than in 2014.
BTB ended their release by saying that Americans continue to be the largest group of visitors making up 63.1% of the overall arrivals. They are
followed by Europeans and Canadians at 12% and 7% respectively.
Belize’s tourism industry is being tainted with the recent murder of U.S. visitor Anne Swaney, which is still under investigation. But according to the Belize Tourism Board, the industry made great strides in 2015, improving visitor arrivals by six point two percent over 2014. The B.T.B. reports seven consecutive months of arrival increases, with September, October, November and December registering the biggest jump. The B.T.B. notes that in November, thirty-three percent more visitors came to the jewel. Another first was in the month of December with close to forty thousand overnight visitors arriving. Two airlines started flights to Belize, Southwest and COPA, contributing to more tourist arrivals at the P.G.I.A. Of interest is that while the U.S. remains the dominant market, there is a surge in visitors, as much as fifty percent, from Latin America. And one last figure from the B.T.B., the total increase in Airport Arrivals for 2015 was seven percent.
Belize breaks tourism arrival record
Belize has broken its previous record, set last year, for most tourist arrivals to the country in a single year. This, of course, is welcomed news by the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) after concerns early in 2015, that arrivals had dipped.
According to the BTB, 2015 only saw a total increase of 10,000 more arrivals than 2014, but the increase is good news, nonetheless.
2015 saw 1.299 million tourists, combining overnight and cruise arrivals, in comparison to 2014’s 1.289 million tourist arrivals.
In the figures released this week, the BTB said: “Despite an unsteady first and second quarter, Belize had seven straight months of arrival increases.”
The last quarter of the year showed a record increase of tourist arrivals, with November having the highest percentage increase at 33 percent, compared to the previous year. There was a 19.3 percent increase in September, a 22.1 percent increase in October and a 22.5 percent in December compared to those same months in 2014.
December was the most successful month, with 39,977 overnight arrivals. The BTB said although December is normally a busy month in the tourist industry, “it is the first time in history that a month in overnight arrivals has approached 40,000.”
Last year also ushered in a host of partnerships with new airline operations in the country. In October and December, respectively, South West and COPA airlines launched flights to and from Belize. The start of these new airline operations directly increased arrivals. The BTB said that South American visitors increased by 50.3 percent since COPA’s inaugural flight in December.
The airport continues being the preferred mode of arrival for overnight tourists with 75.02 percent of overnight tourists arriving through the Philip Goldson International Airport (PGIA). There was a seven percent increase in airport arrivals.
Of both arrival types, overnight tourists and cruise passengers, the overnight sector is the only one to have grown. There was a total of 341,125 overnight tourists, a 6.2 percent increase from last year.
The cruise sector, however, though it saw a total of 957,975 cruise passengers coming to the country, this represented a one percent decrease. One cruise ship cancelled its docking in Belize.
One of the two cruise ships with the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), the Divina, could not make it because of engine problems. The other MSC Divina cruise ship called at the Port of Belize on December 31st.
According to the BTB, the three largest markets for tourism continue to be the United States of America (USA), Europe and Canada. Citizens from the USA have consistently made up the bulk of the country’s tourist arrivals and this year, citizens from that country account for 63.1 percent of the total arrivals.
Europeans make up 12 percent of the total, hailing mainly from the United Kingdom, Germany and France. Canadians are the third largest market, accounting for seven percent of all tourists that came to Belize in 2015.