The high season in tourism is kicking in just as the figures for the third quarter are being released. The industry is one of the top income earners so the numbers are closely watched. The stats show that for the period July to September, there was a small increase in arrivals and overnight stays. Cruise ship tourism, however, did not fare well and the number of visitors went down significantly in the third quarter. News Five’s Isani Cayetano has that report.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Recent statistics on the performance of the tourism sector in the third quarter of this year indicate that cruise tourism in Belize is on a steady decline. In July and August there were twelve percent and eleven percent decreases in the number of arrivals, respectively.

Michael Arana

Much of what is happening, in terms of the irregularity of arrivals, is being attributed to the tender crisis which erupted in early January.

Michael Arana, Tourism Data Analyst, B.T.B.

“The cruise arrival figures have been unpredictable since the beginning of the year. At the beginning of the year, in January, we had a problem with the Carnival Cruise Line in terms of this cruise tender issue and we started to see some significant decreases there because they started to cancel some of their ships. Since then the trend has been erratic, some months we see increases [and] some months we see decreases. It has been quite unpredictable but we are looking forward to increases in the third quarter largely because were entering into the high season and normally we see a lot of promotional activity and also the climate in this region begins to become more favorable for travel.”

While the industry attempts to recover from the hardships faced during the first three months of 2011 figures for September also reflect a six percent reduction in arrivals. Since the beginning of the year arrivals have been down ten percent altogether, including the threat of Hurricane Rina last month which saw several ships being canceled. The overnight sector, on the other hand, is performing well.

Michael Arana

“Weve seen some slight increases in the overnight sector and well the overnight sector is the most important sector for us because the average daily expenditure of the overnight tourist is significantly higher than that of the single day visitor or the cruise visitor. So when we release the statistics quarterly the focus is on the performance of the overnight sector and from what I can see so far we seem to be headed towards figures that are close to the pre-crisis period of 2008.”

In 2008, prior to the global economic meltdown, a little under two hundred thousand overnight tourists passed through the country. Those numbers have changed considerably, greatly impacting revenue generated from the industry. Arana says that while the figures show a slight increase it is difficult, at this point, to measure the growth in dollars and cents.

Michael Arana

“That is difficult to assess because in terms of the revenue generated we look largely at the accommodation sector. We look at taxes. The Revenue Collection Department does a very good job of keeping on track with the revenue collection in terms of the taxes; however, one of the other indicators is the hotel occupancy and we have been behind in terms of compiling the statistics for the accommodation sector, for example, we are only up to, I think, the second quarter occupancy for this year because of some data entry backlogs that we had. But, we have seen increases in the hotel occupancy and that is largely tied into the overnight sector because obviously the overnight visitors they stay in paid accommodations. So once you see increases in the overnight sector arrivals you usually normally see increases in hotel occupancy as well.”

The fourth quarter which begins and ends during the high season is also expected to see another favorable increase in overnight arrivals.

Michael Arana

“In terms of forecast I would say that I can reasonably predict a three percent increase possibly in the overnight because this is what we have seen so far this year and its also in line with the United Nations World Tourism Organizations forecast for global tourism.”

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Channel 5