January 08, 2009

Countries around the world have been feeling the impact of the global financial crisis and many countries have been making preparations to lessen the impact on their economies. In the Caribbean one sector that much emphasis has been placed on is tourism. Belize is no exception and today we spoke to Product Development Manager at the Belize Tourism Board, Laura Esquivel, about the effects of the recession on our tourism flow.

Laura Esquivel; Product Development Manager, Belize Tourism Board

“We are still right now compiling our December statistics. In our November statistics we had a 1% decrease in arrivals at the International Airport. We are still getting in our figures from the other border areas for November. We did see some poor months in September and October and we can link those directly to when the banks were crashing and when the residential mortgages were also crashing. We are seeing a little bit of a shift in where people are staying; we are doing a little informal survey right now and we are seeing a shift in terms of which hotels people are staying at and I think this can be linked back to what is going on in the US. BTB continues to work towards increasing the awareness about Belize and increase the arrivals to Belize, and then also making sure that the product that we are offering to the tourists coming to Belize is of high quality standards.”

While recovery in the United States might not be seen immediately, the Belize Tourism Board is trying to improve the services provided to those tourists who visit Belize. This is being done through training workshops, one of which will be held later this month. Esquivel tells us more.

Laura Esquivel; Product Development Manager, Belize Tourism Board

“It is a workshop geared towards small hotel and restaurant owners and food and beverage managers of those establishments. The idea being that it’s for training for Food and Beverage it goes a bit more in details, it goes in terms of costing, staffing and basically just how to run a smoother show in the food and beverage business. This is a project in conjunction with the Organization of American States; it’s a continuation of a project that we have that is 3 years of doing training courses in Belize and in two other countries in the Caribbean. All the countries will have the same training and the idea is that we know that we have to invest in our human resource capital. We have to invest to make our product better for when we have tourists coming here. We have to meet the same service standards that they are expecting everywhere else around the world.”

Esquivel says that this first workshop is only part of a larger project being held regionally and we can expect more training during the course of the year. But the BTB also have other projects that they will be focusing on this year.

Laura Esquivel; Product Development Manager, Belize Tourism Board

“We have another training that will be scheduled for some time in February with a focus on bartending skills. We are looking at a lot of community projects; we are meeting with as many stakeholders in the different communities that are mainly affected by tourism to see what kind of projects they have in mind to help boost tourism in their area. Also as you know we have a very big project coming on board now, the Sustainable Tourism Development Project which is in coordination with the loan that we have from the Inter-American Development Bank. That’s a huge project that will be starting this year and includes some construction work as well as a lot of more training and institutional strengthening, writing a master plan for the tourism product for the entire country, which will then be followed up by legislation. So there are a lot of things that will be going on in tourism this year.”

The Food and Beverage Management workshop will be held at the Radisson Fort George Hotel from January 26th to the 30th beginning at 2p.m. Interested participants must register by January 19th.