The Belize Tourism Industry Association hosted a Symposium on Friday, May 31, 2019 to introduce the core components and objectives of its proposal submitted to the Summit Foundation for the funding of a Sustainable Tourism Programme for Belize that will promote sustainable tourism practices in Belize with the intent to assist in protecting and creating a sustainable use of the Mesoamerican Reef system.

Since 2000, the MAR has remained a vulnerable environment being compromised by large-scale, irresponsible tourism development caused mainly by dredging, overfishing, deforestation, climate change, pollution, increased carbon footprint, etc. The Sustainable Tourism Programme, a three-year project ending December 2022 should focus on targeting ways in which the reduction of these negative impacts can be achieved. The project goals include the following:

1. Eco-audit Baseline Data – an “eco-audit” at Belize’s major and emerging tourism destinations with the overarching outcome being to determine financial savings in the tourism sector that allows resilience of the ecosystems.

2. Sustainable Tourism Best Practice – undertake a national campaign to promote sustainable tourism best practices for tourism service providers and increase the number of enterprises engaging in such practices.

3. Certification Programme – expansion of the Sustainability Best Practices Programme to be launched followed by the implementation of a National Certification Programme.

4. Marketing & Public Relations Strategy – focus on marketing and promoting tourism businesses certified under the program through BTIA’s Sustainable Tourism Unit

Prior to the presentation by John M. Burgos of the BTIA, there were three key presentations made by industry partners whose current works support or are in line with the goals of the Sustainable Tourism Programme. Abil Castañeda, Chief Tourism Officer, from the Ministry of Tourism spoke on the changes and regulations that need to be in place for the better management and protection of our natural resources and parks for Belize to be a sustainable destination. Mr. Anthony Mai, Environmental Officer, from the Department of the Environment (DOE) elaborated on the environmental policies and regulations in place, reiterating the steps taken by DOE to ensure that all proposed development projects are in compliance before giving approval. Dr. Craig Hayes, owner of Turneffe Flats – a Green Globe Certified business, spoke on the different projects undertaken to ensure that the most effective and environmental friendly practices are in place to have little to no negative impact on the Turneffe Atoll and its environment.

“The Sustainable Tourism Programme will provide the technical assistance and expertise needed for Belize to fully adopt a green and blue economy and practice sustainable tourism,” commented John M. Burgos, Executive Director. “Through the Sustainable Tourism Unit at the BTIA, we will ensure that as Belize is approaching that goal, that all steps and achievements of the businesses participating be marketed and promoted so that Belize remains in the forefront internationally as a sustainable destination,” concluded Mr. Burgos.