Preliminary tourism figures are in for 2008 and as we have been suspecting all along, the news is not good. Overall, there was a two point five percent reduction, with the Philip Goldson International Airport recording a whopping nine point three percent less arrivals in December. And that wasn’t even the worst month for 2008 at the airport as September saw a fifteen percent in decrease, while in October that number increased to almost sixteen percent. The international airport is the main port of entry for United States visitors and the financial crisis that country is experiencing is reflecting in the lack of travel. The good news in the raw data is that there were increases in arrivals at all points in January at seven point four percent, and some smaller upwards movements in February, March, April, and July helped to somewhat lessen the blow. Today Director of Product Development Laura Esquivel told News Five that while the stats are not great, Belize is faring better than some of its Caribbean counterparts. The B.T.B. is also courting at the European and Canadian markets to make up for the U.S. shortfall.
Laura Esquivel, Director of Product Development
“Our market is made up primarily of the American tourists, a little over sixty percent.”
“Does this forecast similar for 2009? What are you all expecting?”
“Well, we are looking at our figures right now and what we are seeing is that we are having increases in the Canadian market which we’re hoping to kind of promote and to help us offset some of the losses that we’re gonna see in the American market. We’re also seeing some positiveness when you come to the European markets. Our representatives have just finished a show in the UK and are on to a show in Brussels to promote the European market coming into Belize. We have just completed a show in New York also that kinda hits both the American and the Canadian market at the same time. We’re doing a lot of press work also with the American markets and the European markets to try and get those in to sort of offset. But, of course, we are still doing our work in the American market. We are looking at new airline alliances, we have an Aviation Development Committee working on that right now. They are currently in negotiations with up to four airlines to bring new routes into Belize. We are looking at routes from Cancun, Canada, closer to South America and of course the European route. We need to work on all our routes to get everybody in at the same time.”
“And as it pertains to cruise arrivals?”
“We were down approximately four percent over last year. However that was expected. We know that the cruise market is sort of up and down. We had already expected that the cruise rivals would be a little less than it was last year. For projecting figures for this coming year we are looking pretty much around the same cruise arrivals we had last year. We have some countries like the Bahamas that I understand are experiencing a five percent decrease, Guyana with twenty-five percent and then other places like Jamaica who have very marginal increases, so I would say that everybody is being affected by the economic downturn on the United States. Many of us market primarily to the American market.”
In 2008, Europe and Canada comprised fourteen and seven percent of the market, respectively.