From Channel 5 News:
Tourism figures show record increase

The buzz among people in the
tourism industry was that Belize
was having a pretty good
season, and if you've tried lately
to buy a ticket on a flight to the
States you know that somebody
is filling all those airplane seats.
Today the Belize Tourism Board
confirmed that intuition and announced an
unprecedented increase in quarterly tourist
arrivals. In comparison with the first three months
of 1999 the year 2000 saw over 25% more visitors
arrive by air. In raw numbers this meant an
additional 8,183 people to dive the reef, climb the
ruins, hike the jungle and cast for the big ones in
the rivers, flats or deep blue sea. The monthly
breakdown was also encouraging, showing a rising
rate of increase, with January arrivals up 14.9%,
February up 21.9% and March recording an
astounding 35.5 more tourist arrivals than March of
1999. Reasons for the boom depend on which
tourism expert you talk to but a well-focussed
marketing campaign by the BTB certainly did not
hurt.

Tracy Taegar, Director of Tourism
"We would like to think that the marketing approach
and the marketing program has been a major factor for
the increases. However I think that 70% of our tourist
arrivals who come from North America primarily from
the US and as you know they have a very strong
economy right now and that certainly contributes to
some of the success of that."

In terms of the slow season, the indication from the
private sector and from the industry is that this
summer is looking very positive. We won't really know
the numbers until we can get some projections in
from the private sector. But we feel confident that the
numbers will be up and we are closing the gap on the
seasonality factor. In terms of Europe and Latin
America we are making steps towards certainly
increasing our arrivals from those areas. We have
certainly the lack of, in terms of Europe, the lack of air
transportation into the country or direct flights into
the country which must be solved."

The BTB also announced that cruise ship arrivals
for the quarter were up a whopping 200% from
the previous year. A recently introduced television
advertising campaign in selected U.S. markets will
hopefully contribute to continued increases in
arrivals for the rest of the year.