Among all the government
ministries, departments and
statuary bodies, it is the one
entity that consistently blows its
own horn the loudest. And for
good reason. In the face of
war, terrorism, hurricanes,
recession, and fear of flying,
Belize's tourism industry has not only held its own,
but consistently grown and prospered. Much of the
credit for that success goes to the Belize Tourism
Board, which today in its annual presentation, gave
us a preview of where the industry is headed.
Janelle Chanona, Reporting
With close to fifty million dollars of recent public
investment in marketing, archaeological parks, border
facilities and a new tourist terminal in the old capital,
efforts over the last five years in the tourism sector
have made the industry the largest single contributor
to our economy.
And despite the impact of international events on
tourism worldwide and natural disasters here at home,
Belize is projecting positive numbers for the year
Tracy Taegar, Director, Belize Tourism Board
"Overnight arrivals have increased by thirteen percent
from 1998 to 2000, with record arrivals each year. In
2003 we are expecting to welcome well over two
hundred thousand overnight visitors for the first time
in Belize's history, compared to only a hundred and
seventy-six thousand in 1998."
Cruise tourism has shown the biggest boom...jumping
from a mere fourteen thousand visitors in 1998 to a
whopping three hundred and fifteen thousand in 2002.
A fact the B.T.B. is quick to boast about...so you
might expect the bulk of B.T.B.'s earnings to come off
a cruise ship...nope. It's only six percent of the total
Mark Espat, Minister of Tourism
"The Belize Tourism Board gets up to four hundred
thousand dollars per year, or gets a minimum of four
hundred thousand dollars per year I should say and
the balance of those landing fees goes to the Belize
Tourism Village. That is part of the fifteen year
agreement that we have in order for them to recoup
their investment and in order for government to not
have made that initial investment."
But there's no denying that more tourists are spending
more dollars in Belize prompting the B.T.B. to shift its
focus slightly...advertisements aside, protection of the
sites must come first.
"One of our resolutions in this term is to work more
closely with NGO community, the Audubon Society,
Coastal Zone management agency and Fisheries to
ensure that we are promoting tourism in a responsible
way, and those who visit our country do so in a way
that allows them to, yes, enjoy, but also protect the
resources that form the foundation of our industry."
"The one other thing I would want to highlight is the
emphasis on partnerships, and we do not use the term
lightly. Really, our role is to promote Belize, to try and
ensure that the occupancy, the arrivals get here to
Belize, but we do need the work of the private sector,
we do need to work of the NGO community, we need
all Belizeans to be a part of the success. They've been
so to date and we want to continue that strong
And in that attitude of teamwork, today the Belize
Tourism Board held it's fifth annual presentation of its
action plan for 2003-2004, ever mindful of the
uncertainties that lie ahead.
"No tourism and war do not get along well together,
as a recent World Tourism Organisation industry
review declared. But neither do tourism and
recessions, nor tourism and natural disasters, nor
tourism and terrorism, nor tourism and SARS, nor if we
stretch it, tourism and competition... and the list
could go on and on."
"All of these and others must be viewed as nothing
more than conditions of doing business. When these
particular conditions past, I assure you, new ones will
emerge. There are always excuses available. Our job
is to grow tourism no matter the conditions."
In her presentation, Director of Tourism, Tracy
Taegar, said that one of the B.T.B.'s major efforts
this year would be to ensure that a greater portion
of the tourism dollar stays in Belize and is
distributed more evenly throughout the country.