13 days from now, on October 1st, the Philip Goldson International Airport is scheduled to reopen. It was postponed twice because coronavirus pandemic panic.
But, the Prime Minister has been clear that the October 1st date was "firm". So, when we caught up today with Ted Tejada, the President of Belize Hotel Association, we asked him how ready his members are for that date:
Ted Tejada - President, BHA
"The Hotel Association stands by what we have been saying from the very beginning, that this virus is here to stay. We're looking into December 1st to now September, 9 months after the fact, and the virus continues to propagate around the world. There's no final vaccine. They're still being tried, but it's no final vaccine. We see that we're going to be standing here in September next year, and this virus is still going to be around. So, we need to learn to live with it. And I think that after 7 months of not having a guest in your hotel, we've seen that it's been over 62,000 people asking the Government of Belize for some type of relief, especially the tourism sector. And that number continues to grow every single day. The companies can no longer sustain helping their employees without getting the influx of tourism. So, most of them have decided that it is time to open. Why? Because they have these beautiful hotels that are now starting to rot. The longer you keep your rooms closed, the moisture, the bugs that get in, damage your furniture. And so, they've realized that we're going to be here next year, looking at the same situation, and we as individuals have to develop protocols, how do we protect the employees, the guests, but we must open. And so, we stand with the Prime Minister that the airport must open October 1st."
And one of the preparations that the Association is helping its members to comply with is the Belize Tourism Board's Gold Standard certification.
This is the BTB's 9-point program, which seeks to enhance the tourism industry's health and safety standards. The authorities want to create a "tourism safe corridor", in which the highest standards of sanitation and cleanliness are maintained, which then provides the best environment to protect the tourists and the tourism employees from new infections with coronavirus.
Tejada gave us a brief outline of how the Gold Standard Certification works, and what his the Hotel Association's members need to do in order to comply with the new way of doing business. Here are those comments:
Ted Tejada - President, BHA
"The Tourism Board develop what they called the gold standard, that I checked last week. We've had 59 hotels that have received their gold standard. As of last week Thursday, there were a hundred applications sitting at the Belize Tourism Board being processed, and to be honest - I don't want to get ahead myself - I know it is going to become law. In order for you to sell a room, to anybody, it doesn't matter if it's going to be a Belizean or an international. We've got to listen to ourselves and say that there are over 1,500 Belizeans with this disease already. So, anybody coming in and visiting your hotel could be infected with the virus. So, this is not an option that you will, if you want to sell a room, become a gold standard. You must become a gold standard, and I understand there's going to be a hefty penalty for any individual selling a room without a gold standard certification. So, I believe within the next month, the Tourism Board is going to be flooded with applications because arriving in the country of Belize, the only way you will be able to pass immigration is that you must be able to show the immigration officer that you have a reservation with a gold-standard hotel. As a matter of fact, 72 hours prior to arriving in the country of Belize, you must download the app, and the app will only have the active, certified hotels on them. So, there is no way that a guest will be able to get into the country of Belize without a demonstration that they are going to be staying at a gold standard hotel. So, we're encouraging, and the Belize Hotel Association is contacting every single member, and we're helping them because if there is anything that they need in order to get the certification, we're there to help them."