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Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,395
Marty Offline OP
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San Pedro feeling the pinch of declining tourist arrivals

It's the high season in the Tourism Industry but if you visited La Isla Bonita, the number one tourist destination, you wouldn't know because the island is not experiencing the hustle and bustle of the season. It is officially known that the number of stay over visitors has decreased by five point two percent and that tourism expenditure fell by three point two percent to three hundred and ninety-two million dollars since the beginning of the year. Marion Ali headed to San Pedro and has a report.

Marion Ali, Reporting
Tourists, Sherry and Jeff Fink are among the dwindling number of visitors to Belize over the past few months. Like many other travellers, the couple is concerned about what the future has in store, but they have decided to put aside those fears at least for now.

Sherry Fink, Tourist
"Now in retirement I want to do a little bit of travelling and so the recession hasn't stopped us, no."

Jeff Fink, Tourist
"When I was telling a lot of my friends that we're going on this trip and everything, they were saying how lucky and how we can afford it and everything and I just tell them well we saved for it and we have to treat ourselves to these little vacations otherwise it's not working. Working isn't worth it then."

Low tourist arrivals have been crippling stakeholders in the industry, including the domestic air carriers�

Jenaro Nunez, Employee, Maya Island Air, San Pedro
"Coming in December we noticed last year was much better than right now and the booking is pretty slow right now."

� And tour and taxi businesses.

Marcus Alamina, San Pedro dive Master
"They used to come in high numbers but they have declined. So we need to hit other countries and have other guests coming in from other countries even if we have to learn to speak their language; something but try getting them here."

Pedro Chable, San Pedro Taxi Driver
"Hardly any people getting off the planes so it's pretty critical. You can see that we're very, very low in tourism this year"

Marion Ali
"How are you all coping with that?"

Pedro Chable
"Going back to the bank and doing bank loans and trying to see if finally this pick up so we can start paying our bills back again."

Marion Ali
"While everyone agrees that it is the global recession that has the economy in such dire straits, there are many here at home who believe that there are things that can be done to ease the burden, and they're calling on their local representatives to intervene."

Alfonso Wiltshire, San Pedro Taxi Driver
"You can fly from Cancun to the US for a hundred and eighty-six dollars round trip. Why does airfare in Belize is so ridiculously expensive? Here in San Pedro, all of us taxi drivers here sometimes like yesterday-you're not asking me my business-but yesterday how much I did yesterday? Twenty-four dollars. You think I can live with that?"

Kevin Reppuhn, San Pedro Entrepreneur
"Everyone feels that the airfares are high, higher than surrounding countries especially Mexico and Cancun obviously."

But while it has been dismal, local bodies in San Pedro are trying to see how they can help.

Amy Leiva, BTB Administrator Mgr, San Pedro
"We support the private sector, we want them to aggressively target the tourists out there to come to Belize and we support that initiative. Our minister is also the minister for civil aviation and there is a board that is tackling that problem with the airfare."

Marion Ali
"So that should come on-stream how soon?"

Amy Leiva

Marion Ali
"People have been calling on the authorities, local representatives, to pitch and try to do something; rescue the situation. Can that be done and if so what can be done?"

Severo Guerrero, Town Councillor, San Pedro
"Maybe it can be done. I don't know. Maybe it needs some more studies to be done. A lot of people are saying-I'm a tour guide-a lot of people tell me the prices to come from the states, the airfare is pretty high. We can do more promotions on Belize but actually like on the airfare I think it's more on Central Government."

Until that happens, the industry will depend on tourists like Judy Jacobs to experience Belize.

Judy Jacobs, Tourist
"Been here ten days and looking forward to going home. If we can't leave, we can't come back."

Reporting for News Five, Marion Ali.

The only business which showed a decent occupancy rate currently was Sun Breeze Suites, which also had bookings into Easter of 2010.

Channel 5

Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 4,672
I just returned a few days ago and have never seen it so quiet, especially during Thanksgiving week. PG and Placencia were virtually empty. I wish I could go back tomorrow and stimulate the Belize economy!

Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 234
I'll be there in 29 days to do my best to stimulate the economy. It'll be a sacrifice but I feel it's my duty.

God Bless The Reef!
Joined: Sep 2007
Posts: 506
Would love to come back again and again but airfares are triple from last year with no end in sight. Tried booking dec, feb, or july and all ridiculously high for 4 people.

Joined: May 2000
Posts: 7,047
But you found good air fares now. It is so tiresome trying to shop the right flights but when you hit pay dirt it makes it all worth the work.

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,395
Marty Offline OP
OP Offline

BTIA's says it's hopeful amidst bleak tourism season

The number of visitors to Belize has declined by five point two percent and stakeholders in the Tourism Industry are feeling the pinch of the economic downturn. On Tuesday, a News Five team found hotel occupancy at its lowest in San Pedro, a prime destination. But despite the bleak outlook, at its Annual General Meeting today, the Belize Tourism Industry Association put its best foot forward and sounded optimistic. Marion Ali reports.

Marion Ali, Reporting
The past year for the Belize Tourism Industry Association has had its fair share of challenges, but the re-elected National Secretary, Valerie Woods, says there is renewed focus to help improve the tourism product.

Valerie Woods, Nat'l Sec., BTIA
"We're gonna make a difference, we're gonna be a lot better serving the needs of the industry and working hand in hand with government, trying to do the best we can to do things differently, creatively, innovatively to make tourism go beyond bar. Identifying what is the Belize product, what is it that we want and don't want, how we're going to strategize to get it, how we're gonna earmark monies to implement it and get serious about coming up with a totally innovative way of doing marketing to get the people out there to appreciate the Belize product. There is no need for Belize to imitate what any other destination is doing. We have it all here."

Woods believes there is hope on the horizon because of the Jewel's unique attractions.

Valerie Woods
"We are optimistic as we go into 2010, despite the downturn in 2009. We recognize that this product that we call Belize is a product that has a fantastic future for experience. It's a premiere product, you're not gonna get this anywhere else in our Central American neighbourhood, but what we gotta do is get serious about the planning, about the marketing and about product development. What we're talking about is added value experience, product development planning, making a more full-round experience for the visitor to make them want to come."

But making visitors want to visit is a lot easier said that done. Woods acknowledges that there are serious challenges affecting the industry.

Valerie Woods
"The issues are common - marketing, high airfares, crime and a serious concerted effort at identifying direction, planning. A lot of the members that are surviving the recession and the effects are telling you listen, it cost me a lot more to get you as a guest into my hotel, to get your head on my hotel's bed. So whereas before, if I may use the term in the glorious years where it was a lot easier, we could sit by the computer, send off a couple quotes and that was it, we've got to earn that."

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Tourism is also expected to introduce its master plan for tourism in the coming year. Reporting for News Five, I am Marion Ali.

As part of the A.G.M., the B.T.I.A. unveiled the cover image of its 2010 Annual Magazine for the industry. Meanwhile past Director at the Belize Tourism Board, Tracy Taegar, now with the B.T.I.A., says she has gotten a commitment from the B.T.B. of fifty thousand toward the BETEX fair in June of 2010. Also noteworthy is that Pedro Perez has been returned as Treasurer of the B.T.I.A.

Channel 5

Joined: Nov 2005
Posts: 477
Correct me if I am wrong... Aren't the high airfares to Belize almost exclusively attributable to two things A) Taxes by the government and 2) Fees charged by the privately owned airport?

Like they did with BTL, why doesn't Barrow (GOB) just take over the airport (aka forcefully purchase at FMV) and normalize the total fees to be more competitive with other Caribbean destinations? May be extreme, but is Belize is going to be a non-starter for years to come if we cannot figure this out soon.

Joined: Jan 2007
Posts: 395
Originally Posted by Caye Connect

Like they did with BTL, why doesn't Barrow (GOB) just take over the airport (aka forcefully purchase at FMV) and normalize the total fees to be more competitive with other Caribbean destinations? May be extreme, but is Belize is going to be a non-starter for years to come if we cannot figure this out soon.

I am sorry but has anything, at least for the positive, happened since the confiscation of BTL by the Barrow government? Do we have VOIP back as was intimated? Have your electric rates come down as promised? What about the proposed increase in the price of water? Perhaps the new government is not as bad as the old, but what positive have they accomplished? Oh yeah, weren't they the ones that said Belize would be immune to the world wide recession? Hey, maybe they can take over Tropic and Maya and lower the prices to get to the island.

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