It’s a main source of foreign exchange, but the tourism industry has been facing a myriad of challenges. So today, the stakeholders came out in numbers, packing the Radisson Fort George, to determine the way forward. The occasion was the Belize Tourism Industry Association’s Annual General Meeting. The good news is that the number of visitors, especially in cruise tourism is improving, but as reported by the outgoing president, the industry experienced mounting setbacks due to global economic factors. But the greatest threat to the industry came from the crime epidemic that has made 2010 the most murderous year. News Five’s Marion Ali has a report.
Marion Ali, Reporting
The membership of the Belize Tourism Industry Association turned out in numbers today at the Radisson Fort George Hotel to attend their Annual General Meeting. As was expected, the event highlighted the major challenges met in 2010, and according to outgoing President, Dionne Miranda, those included issues from the recession and the threat of H1N1. But those in the industry feel that there is a much bigger problem affecting not only tourism, but the entire socio-economic sector, and that problem is crime and the justice system.
Dionne Miranda, Outgoing President, BTIA
“As you saw from the membership today, they feel that the judicial system is the one that is really in question. I mean crime exists and if you identify who the criminal is, the penalty must be commensurate with the action and at some point in time, the citizens of this country and its visitors needs to be protected.”
It is in that light that President of the Belize Hotels Association, Doug Thompson, challenged Prime Minister, Dean Barrow to take serious charge of the crime issue in order to help save the industry.
Doug Thompson, President, Belize Hotels Association
“The Prime Minister needs to have that same steely approach that he used recently with one of his ministers and he needs to bring that same energy to the crime issue. We don’t see it. Reshuffling the Ministers and moving chairs around is like moving the chairs around on the Titanic as it continues to sink, and that is what we have had so far, it’s more lip service than actual actions. We need action.”
But there was also promising news as new air carriers will make Belize a part of their stop as early as next week as we try to compete with the rest of the world.
Jim Scott, Incoming President, BTIA
“There were Delta, It think it was announced Delta starts next week flights everyday and of course I think it was once or twice a week, that’s excellent news. The Airport Development Committee has done tremendous work for Belize and trying to push air carriers down here. They’ve been looking at Frontiers, Blue Jet, other airlines that potentially could come online. And it’s exciting to see some of these committees who are really going after soliciting and courting some of these airlines and they’re doing it the old fashion way – showing up on their doorsteps, shaking hands and saying “I dah from down deh and you need fi cohn yah because this dah weh we got.”
As part of the effort to enhance Belize’s image, BTIA has been working with Idea Lab to market Belize. The meeting was got a sneak preview of their latest production. Marion Ali for News Five.
Another challenge the industry faces is the controversial introduction of cruise tourism in the peninsula.