PM Barrow has said that the tourism industry will be the last to re-open, and the best bet for the reopening of the airport is the approval of rapid test kits
The COVID-19 pandemic has put the brakes on the global tourism industry. Most countries remain on lockdown with closed borders. Cruise ships have stopped sailing and air travel has grounded to a screeching halt.
In Belize, a major portion of the country’s economy is based on its tourism product. The pandemic, however, has demolished Belize’s tourism industry, creating a massive unemployment headache for the government.
As the country enters a new phase of its COVID-19 State of Emergency with a gradual re-opening of internal economic activities, Prime Minister Dean Barrow has said that the tourism sector is going to be the last sector to re-open.
In an effort to stimulate economic activity in the hotel industry, which is heavily dependent on the tourism industry, the government announced on Thursday, April 30, that internal travel is allowed and hotels can accommodate local guests — though State of Emergency restrictions and protocols must be observed.
“And since we are saying that anybody can move across district lines in order to attend or in order to seek the services that are available, that are legitimate — then it must mean that indeed, if people want to travel to San Pedro, if Minister Heredia and Mayor Guerrero will permit, they should be free to do so,” PM Barrow said.
Barrow, however, added,”… restaurants can’t open for in-restaurant dining. People will have to settle for room service and hotels will have to be very careful with the question of the use of the pool. But in principle, the answer is yes as to whether Belizeans will be able to, in fact, travel across district lines to patronize, if you will, the hotels that are now being allowed to reopen.”
With the economic difficulties that the pandemic created for the country, it remains to be seen what kind of economic stimulation the local hotel industry will derive from government’s relaxation of the State of Emergency measures.
The airport will remain closed indefinitely, as well as Belize’s land borders; therefore, it will be quite awhile before overnight tourism can return.
PM Barrow indicated that the tourism industry will be the last thing that government will tackle in the post-State of Emergency period in Belize.
PM Barrow explained government’s position on the reopening of the tourism industry: “Unfortunately, tourism is the last in terms of the easing of the restrictions against the entry of tourists into Belize; that comes last. We are hopeful that, as Dr. Gough reiterated, there can soon be an acceptable rapid test that would then allow us to administer the test to every visitor that is coming to Belize,” said Barrow.
“Short of that, it is going to be awhile. I don’t see us reopening the airport anytime soon, and our best bet for an accelerated opening is the certification, the approval of the rapid tests,” he went on to say.
Barrow stared frankly, “Look, it will take a long time for us to be able to recover to any satisfactory degree. Remember that the biggest contributor to our economy is tourism, and we certainly are not at a point where we can reopen the tourism sector.
“ So, what we are doing will provide some additional flow to the trickle of revenues that government is getting, to the trickle of income that private sector businesses are realizing, but every little bit helps. We have to make a start at some point, and that is what we are doing now.”Amandala