The tourism industry in Belize continues to take a hit from the economic fallout caused by COVID-19. Usually, this time of year, tourists arrive by the thousands; these days, they trickle in smaller numbers. Some hotels are still struggling to attract tourists, while others are enduring notwithstanding the tough times. On our visit to Blancaneux lodge, we found out how their sister properties have been faring off. Here’s the story.
Andrea Polanco, Reporting
Blancaneaux Lodge and Turtle Inn are two of Belize’s premier tourism properties. Together, they give visitors a ridge to reef experience – from Mountain Pine Ridge to the Placencia Peninsula. Like the rest of the tourism industry, these luxury properties were hit hard by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic – they closed their doors to visitors for eight months.
Martin Krediet, General Manager, The Turtle Inn
“Our hotels opened in November last year, so we closed for about eight months.”
“Wow – what’s that like being closed for so long? Is this the first time you’ve seen something like this since working with the property?”
“Yes! I have personally there for ten years, Bernie has been with them for twenty-five years at Blancaneaux – so it is really nice to see that loyalty and longevity with staff as well who have been there for ten years. They become family and you roll up your sleeves and do what is necessary.”
…and so during those eight months off, the properties worked hard to rebound for when they reopened. The staff worked on a two week shift system on maintenance, landscaping and other projects to ensure that the properties were ready to receive visitors. And their aggressive marketing strategy to get visitors through their doors paid off; Turtle Inn was the highest revenue earning property over the holidays.
“We have done quite a lot of outreach to past guests, to our repeat guests to ensure that they come back and stay loyal to us and support us. We have seen that happen quite strongly actually ever since we opened our doors again, everyday there are repeat guests. We keep track of that loyalty programme quite well and it is really rewarding to see these people come back, over and over and reaching out; doing marketing efforts; email campaigns; loyalty campaigns.
I am quite proud to say that Karen Bevans from the B.T.B. called me the other day and congratulated us, Turtle Inn, in being the number one property in December as far as revenue countrywide. So, that is an amazing accomplishment. I was quite surprised. I was like wait a minute – there are much bigger hotels than we are. So, that goes to show that the repeat clientele keeps you afloat at the end of the day.”
…and while Turtle Inn enjoyed that boost from international visitors, at its sister property of Blancaneaux Lodge in Mountain Pine Ridge, there was a steady stream of Belizeans taking advantage of the special deals for locals.
Bernie Matute, General Manager, Blancaneaux Lodge
“We are offering discounted rates for locals. We normally have these rates during the off season but being that now is the pandemic we have stretched it out as well too.”
“Have you gotten any Belizean tourists since?”
“Absolutely and that is what is exciting. We have more people knowing about us and more people coming to visit us. It is just a great interaction to be here and being hosting our local people.”
General Managers Krediet and Matute are looking forward to another boost in tourist numbers for the months of March and April but until then they are hoping that locals will take advantage of the opportunity to take in the tourist offerings that are more accessible during what’s traditionally a peak season for travelers.
“We have so many activities and great attractions for local and foreign tourists. We are open and anyone wishing to visit is more than welcome to pay us a visit.”
“This is the time where properties are not as busy; they are more accessible. People are not as busy, so take the time to discover your own backyard – come and see us here at Blancaneaux and Turtle Inn – pop in for lunch if you don’t have time to stay overnight.”