Tourism's Path for the Future
In my past articles I have discussed various issues from the importance of tourism to our economy, as to government's role and issues regarding planning and policies. Now let us discuss where Belize should go with tourism as an industry. The issue of what strategy Belize should adopt for tourism growth is often difficult for decision-makers to make.

First we must realize that often tourism information is not always available and accurate, the key word here is timely. Many times decisions are needed to be made even though key information is not readily available. Secondly, public opinion at times influence the decision-makers often done by political sentiments. An excellent example of this is the figures for tourism arrivals. Whenever the tourism community perceives business to be bad they look at tourism figures and quickly compare these to that of our region, Mexico and Guatemala, (Mass tourism we say) not realizing that these countries offer a different tourism product and have much larger tourism budgets to work with. These countries have a much larger accommodation and business base, giving them the "lift" that makes airlines offer better rates.

Therefore the issue is this, if we want growth we must be prepared to accept changes within our industry. If we truly want to increase arrivals we must be prepared to encourage larger resort type hotels preferably one with a recognized name, this is beneficial to the industry from a marketing point. We must also be prepared to fine tune our services and improve product to the highest standards, whereby quality travelers are prepared to pay for such because it is unique and not available anywhere else.

On the other hand an increase In arrivals do not necessarily mean an increase of revenues. The quality of the traveler is what really counts. How many times have you seen your destination teeming with visitors but sales was not that good, often I bet? Most hoteliers will tell you we don't need more hotels. The conservationist will tell you we should not accept cruise ships. Has any one asked the unemployed what we should or should not do?

The bottom line is that a growth strategy for Belize must be realized and be supported by all. Without a growth strategy to deal with the constantly changing and increasingly competitive New World, Belize's tourism will have little or no ability to manage change. Without targets for tourist arrivals not only in numbers but also in type, it could become difficult measure the effectiveness of our investments in marketing income and financial resources. It may also become next to impossible to moderate visitation, if limits seem to have exceeded acceptable changes. Therefore any key decision on tourism needs to be made on sound unbiased information. Until next time Tourism We Make It Happen!

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