LATE NEWS OF BELIZE
FROM BELIZE FIRST MAGAZINE
YEAR 2000 A RECORD FOR TOURISM IN BELIZE AND TREND CONTINUES IN 2001 International arrivals by air in Belize totaled more than 131,000 in 2000, a record. This was despite a slowdown in tourism in October and November following Hurricane Keith. Many point to the US$2.3 million ad campaign, mostly in spot TV in the U.S., as the reason for the strong tourism showing. With land arrivals, the total tourist count for Belize for 2000 is more than 200,000. In addition, more than 55,000 visitors spent at least a few hours in Belize, arriving by cruise ship in 2000. Average hotel occupancy rates in Belize increased to almost 42 percent in 2000, up by more than 10 points. Results for the first months in 2001 suggest the trend will continue, as tourism continues to see record numbers. However, cruise ship visitation is experiencing a temporary lull. At present the only major line calling in Belize City is NCL with a 1,700-passenger ship every Wednesday through April. The Carnival Spirit and Norwegian Sun, both with capacities over 2,000 passengers, will begin weekly visits to Belize City in fall 2001, when the new Tourism Village at Fort Point may be ready. New hotels and other tourism developments continue to be planned for Belize. Several new condo projects are underway on Ambergris Caye, and new small lodges and hotels have opened in Belize City, Placencia, Hopkins, Cayo and elsewhere. Also, expansions or renovations have been completed at a number of properties including Inn at Robert’s Grove and Blancaneaux’s Turtle Inn on the Placencia peninsula and Chaa Creek near San Ignacio.
ELECTRICAL BLACKOUTS PLAGUE BELIZE The usually fairly reliable electrical power system in Belize has been jolted by a series of blackouts and power outages this spring due to generator and transmission failures in Mexico, from which Belize buys a significant part of its electrical power. Rolling blackouts have affected up to one-half of the country on some days in March and April. The Belize government and BEL say that the proposed Chalillo dam project would help eliminate these types of problems. Environmentalists say the cost to the Macal River Valley ecosystem due to the dam is too great, despite any improvements in electrical power supply.
CHEESY BUT POPULAR “TEMPTATION ISLAND” A PR BOOST FOR BELIZE
Fox TV’s “Temptation Island” proved a public relations blessing for Belize, particularly Ambergris Caye, where the show was mostly filmed. The eight-episode “reality TV” program was panned by critics but got a large audience in the U.S. Captain Morgan’s and Mata Chica, the two resorts on North Ambergris where the show’s cast were housed, have experienced a surge in bookings.
PINE BEETLE DEVASTATES PINE FOREST IN MOUNTAIN PINE RIDGE AND SPREADS SOUTH The Southern Pine Bark Beetle has killed thousands of acres of pines in the Pine Ridge and the little beast is now spreading southward into coastal areas of Stann Creek District. Dead and dying trees in the Mountain Pine Ridge have contributed to a spate of dry season forest fires in Belize’s hill country. The Mountain Pine, related to the Caribbean Pine, is a dominant tree in some parts of the Mountain Pine Ridge.
MED SCHOOL ON AMBERGRIS BREAKS GROUND FOR NEW CAMPUS St. Matthews Medical University, a fast-growing offshore medical school, has broken ground for a new campus on Ambergris Caye. The new facilities will be located south of the present temporary quarters near Banyan Bay villas, on six acres between Victoria House and Caribe Island Resort.
BELIZE POLICE OFFICIALS CLAIM CRIME IN BELIZE IS DOWN, BUT HIGH-PROFILE KILLINGS CONTINUE Belize police officials say major crime in Belize is down by double digits, but newspaper headlines don’t always substantiate that claim. For example, two young children were killed in a hail of gang gunfire in Belize City January. The shootings occurred in broad daylight in the Mahogany Street Extension area. Two Belize City men have been charged with the killings. Murders, burglaries, drive-by shootings and muggings appear relatively common in Belize City and not unheard of in other areas.
ECONOMY IMPROVING, ACCORDING TO GOVERNMENT Prime Minister Said Musa says Belize’s economy is definitely on the upswing. Real Gross Domestic Project growth jumped to more than 8% in 2000, from a low of 1.4% in 1998, while unemployment fell to 11.5%, according to government figures. Citrus, tourism and shrimp farming have grown, while sugar continues its decline due to low world prices.
GLENN GODFREY, INC. -- BELIZE'S ONE-MAN CAPITALIST POWERHOUSE Apparently not satisfied with bringing Internet gambling to Belize through his DataPro International outfit, running an offshore bank, Provident Bank, and keeping his well-connected hand in many other businesses in Belize, Glenn Godfrey appears to be positioning his companies to get into the telecommunications biz when BTL’s monopoly ends in December 2002. Godfrey’s ITL will work with Korea’s giant LG Electronics to build a wireless telecommunications network in Belize for use by the government and schools, according to an announcement by the PUP government
NEWS ORGANIZATION SAID TO BE LOOKING IN TO “BELIZE CORRUPTION” AND “TREATMENT OF FOREIGNERS” A reporter from the Associated Press reportedly has been in Belize researching alleged corruption in Belize and alleged “mistreatment” of foreign nationals who have invested in Belize. The AP reporter, Lisa Adams, based in Mexico City, says her goal is “always to present all sides of every story.” Stay tuned.
LAST BRIDGE COMPLETED ON HUMMINGBIRD, SOUTHERN HIGHWAY CONSTRUCTION STILL UNDERWAY With the completion of the Caves Branch bridge, the Hummingbird Highway resurfacing is now officially complete. The Hummingbird Highway is considered one of the best two-lane roads in Central America. Surfacing of the Southern Highway between Dangriga and Independence continues.
THREE TRANSFUSED WITH HIV-INFECTED BLOOD AT KARL HEUSNER HOSPITAL In late March, three Belizean patients including a two-month-old infant received blood transfusions which contained HIV. The hospital is investigating how this could have happened. The infant later died, but not as a result of the HIV transfusion, according to hospital officials. Belize’s largest and most modern hospital has been plagued with equipment and medicine shortages and poor training of some staff, according to many observers.
NEW BANK IN BELIZE Alliance Bank, part of the growing Glenn Godfrey business empire, has opened, with a temporary office on New Road in Belize City. It has plans to move to new offices on Barrack Road. This makes five full-service bank companies operating in Belize. The other four are Belize Bank, Atlantic Bank, Scotia Bank and Barclays.
PRINCESS ANNE VISIT England’s Princess Anne has announced a visit to Belize in mid April. In 2000, Prince William, the son of Prince Charles, visited Belize as part of his military service.
SHRIMP FARMING JOINS TOURISM, SUGAR AND CITRUS AS MAJOR BUSINESS Shrimp farming, a capital intensive business concentrated in central and southern Belize, is now the fastest-growing industry in Belize, and along with tourism, sugar and citrus one of the largest. Shrimp are “farmed” in lagoons and sold to seafood-hungry corporate buyers in the U.S. and elsewhere. Environmentalists worry that these farms may be detrimental to Belize’s fragile coastal ecology. However, the Belizean and international money behind these operations talks loudly and so far little has been done to limit the growth of shrimp farming operations in Belize, some of which range over hundreds of acres and employ large numbers of workers.
TOURISM VILLAGE SEEN AS KEY TO INVIGORATING PARTS OF BELIZE CITY The US$5 million “tourism village” under construction in the Fort Point area of Belize City is seen as key to improving the downtown area. The tourism village is expected to add shops, galleries, restaurants and other attractions for cruise ship passengers and other visitors in Belize City. Completion is set for late 2001.
CAVES AT JAGUAR PAW CLOSED The PUP government and the owners of Jaguar Paw, an upscale jungle lodge in a remote area near Belmopan, are in a spitting match over access to caves on Jaguar Paw’s property. The caves, which contain Maya relics, have been popular sites for river tubing. The lodge’s owners, Americans Donna and Cy Young, have closed the caves to visits by ship passengers and others. Government officials have visited the site, and negotiations continue. There has been a history of conflict between the resort’s owners and Belizeans visiting the area.
WASA PRIVATIZED Belize’s Water and Sewerage Authority is the third Belizean utility to be privatized, following BTL and BEL. The new majority owners of the utility, which now will be called Belize Water Services Ltd., is CASCAL, a European consortium jointly owned by British and Dutch companies. The sale brought in US$30 million to the Belize government. How the sale may affect water services and rates is as yet unknown.
BTL LOWERS CELL RATES BTL has cut cellular phone rates to US 35 cents a minute for day-time calls in Belize and to US 20 cents for calls after 8 p.m.
NEW BOOK ON LIVING, RETIRING IN BELIZE DUE OUT THIS SUMMER Adaptor Kit: Belize, a new book by Lan Sluder, editor and publisher of Belize First Magazine, is to be published this summer by Avalon, the publishers of the Moon Handbooks, Rick Steve’s Through the Backdoor and other popular series. Sluder’s new book will be the definitive guide to relocating or investing in Belize, according to the publisher. It features interviews with dozens of expats in Belize along with the latest information on retirement and residency programs. Sluder is the author or co-author of several books on Belize, including Guide to Mainland Belize and Fodor’s Belize and Guatemala Guide.
ZOO WINS, LANDFILL RE-SITED The government has decided it won’t locate a major landfill next to the Belize Zoo after all. Instead, it will be located several miles to the east of the zoo, at Mile 24 of the Western Highway.
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