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Marty Offline OP
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Belize Tourism Board Announces New Safe Travel Requirements - Travelers Must Purchase Health Insurance to Enter

In an effort to further protect the health and wellbeing of international visitors and Belizeans from COVID-19, Belize Tourism Board (BTB), the official tourism organization for Belize, has released new safe travel standards for any persons entering the country. Effective Feb. 15, 2022, all visitors are required to apply for Belize Travel Health Insurance - a mandatory insurance that helps protect travelers against incurred medical and non-medical expenses if they test positive for COVID-19 during their stay in Belize.

The cost of the policy is $18 USD and provides coverage for up to $50,000 USD in medical expenses related to treatment of COVID-19 for a period of 21 days. This insurance plan will come online under the country's public health regulations and provide cover for lodging expenses due to quarantine up to $2,000 USD (max $300/day USD). Travelers will also be covered for emergency assistance services such as air evacuation and emergency expenses related to pre-existing conditions. Furthermore, it covers trip cancellations and expenses incurred by COVID-19 positive travelers for extended stays.

Some important entry highlights are listed below:

� It is recommended that travelers purchase the Belize Travel Health Insurance prior to their travel to Belize; however, purchases can be made upon arrival at the Philip Goldson International Airport or at Belize's land borders

� Visitors must purchase Belize Travel Health Insurance and are required to complete the Customs and Immigration form that is provided on all flights to Belize.

� Exempted from this mandatory insurance are Belizean nationals, permanent residents and travelers with QRP or Long Stay status and flight crews.

� All international tourists must book accommodations at a Gold Standard property and present confirmation at immigration.

� All travelers, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, entering Belize through the Philip Goldson International Airport from other countries will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test.

� If no test is presented, a COVID-19 test will be administered at the airport for a fee of USD $50 per passenger. Children under the age of 5 years will not be required to present a negative test.

In the past year, Belize has implemented several traveler protocols to keep visitors feeling safe, including the Tourism Gold Standard Program and Travel Belize app, which enables travelers to seamlessly plan their vacation with certified hotels and tour operators (an entry requirement). The new Travel Health Insurance mandate underscores Belize's commitment to health and safety, enhancing travel confidence and giving visitors peace of mind to schedule that well-deserved vacation for 2022 and beyond.

Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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Visitors to Belize Will Now Have To Buy Travel Health Insurance

Traveling internationally during COVID-times is more expensive than ever before - and that's because of the mandatory COVID tests that have to be taken before entering any new country.

And now, the Belize Tourism Board is adding another charge to that. Effective February 15th, the BTB will be implementing a mandatory 18 US dollar per head Traveler Health Insurance for every visitor arriving in Belize.

At a conservative 300,000 visitors per year - that's a cool 5.4 million US dollars annually going into the accounts of some insurance company, or companies.

And while the skeptical observer may look at it as an enrichment scheme, the BTB says it's the right choice at the right time. The $18 USD provides coverage for up to $50,000 USD in medical expenses for COVID-19 treatment for a period of 21 days. It will also cover lodging expenses - for those who test positive for COVID right before they're supposed to return to their country of origin and are forced to quarantine in Belize.

So, proponents say that for 18 US dollars, it's a great marketing boon to make guests feel secure.

Today, the Director of Tourism, Evan Tillett told us about the insurance's price point and the extent of its coverage:

Evan Tillet - Director of Tourism, BTB
"The price point is at 18 US dollars and it covers you for 21 days and a total coverage a maximum of 50,000 US dollars it will cover each foreigner or guest that comes into the country."

Cherisse Halsall
"Now you said that this is rather affordable but travel to Belize is already more expensive than anywhere else in the region and if you're a single person, I agree it's rather affordable but once you start traveling in a family or an excursion, this price could prove a deterrent to come into Belize."


Evan Tillet
"I don't think it will be a deterrent to come into Belize. Of course there is an additional cost but the benefits of the travel insurance plan really makes the difference. In the time when we have omicron and things are so erratic, I think that it provides the visitor with a sense of safety as well as it protects the industry. It protects the industry because the insurance policy also includes a trip cancellation, so if a guest in the US that's traveling to Belize gets sick and can't come, typically what would happen is the hotel will have to reimburse that guest for the travel, this insurance policy will cover, so the hotels in Belize won't have to refund that money, the insurance company will actually refund that money, so it's an added benefit and it also puts Belize out there as a safe destination."

Cherisse Halsall
"So of course we have to wonder, we've seen medical staff have to go out to cruise ships to bring in people that are ill and we expect that Belizean hospitals can be burden with tourists who fall ill in Belize. This is really protection mechanism for our government is it?"

Evan Tillet
"It is a protection mechanism for the government, for the health system, for the industry on a whole, both the visitor and the Belizeans. It provides a level of care that so the government would not have to take up that expense in terms of caring for a patient who cannot afford to pay their hospitalization or their hospital bill."

Cherisse Halsall
"It is rumored that this insurance will be provided through ICB, so I have to ask is there any particular business interest that has driven this?"


Evan Tillet
"It will be provided by ICB but it is not a situation where there is a monopoly, any insurance company that is interested in being part of the travel insurance program can apply and be a part of the program."

Cherisse Halsall
"Now let's take a look at the numbers for a minute because you said 18 dollars per visitor, over 300,000 visitors per year on average, which would amount to almost 5 million Belize dollars every year, linking to my previous question, somebody is making that revenue."


Evan Tillet
"Well you have to look at the protection that it provides, that is the most important thing. In the environment where omicron is spreading across the globe, we have to think about tourism represents 40% in terms of the GDP of this country and so we must protect our industry. If we are to go back to the days where we lock down, we cannot afford, all we are doing is creating additional poverty in this country and so we in tourism are concerned about the safety and economic benefit to the Belizean people and I think that is the important thing that we need to look, not the issue of what the service provider makes. The feedback we have gotten in some cases is that they welcome the insurance because of the protection and the ability to ensure that the hotels get the benefit of the policy that's in place."

Travelers can purchase the Belize Travel Health Insurance prior to their travel to Belize or they can do so when they arrive at the PGIA or at Belize's land borders. To be clear, Belizeans, permanent residents and travelers with Long Stay status are exempted.

BTIA Supports New Insurance Charge

And, the BTIA Belize Tourism Industry Association - which has a seat on the BTB's Board of Directors - has given its support to the initiative.

Though that support is not unanimous within the BTIA - President Stuart Krohn says that a majority of the membership does support the idea of a traveler's insurance.

Speaking to us today via Zoom from Naia Resort in Placencia he said he too was skeptical at first but warmed up to what he feels is a good marketing initiative:

Steward Krohn - President, BTIA
"When I was initially informed about it, I was kind of naturally opposed to it, for 2 main reasons, one was that it plays an additional burden financial burden on tourists coming in and I thought this would be a deterrent for tourists who already saddled with some of the highest extra charges in the region to come to Belize and secondly in it's original carnation, this was a mandatory plan that was tied to a single insurance company. I have been reasonably assured that the ability to sell this insurance is being thrown open to any insurance company that meets the minimum qualifications of integrity and reinsurance and the other is that given the evolving situation, that slight added cost of a visit to Belize given the omicron and perhaps future variants and the feeling that covid is here to stay, having insurance and knowing that everyone has to have insurance will actually make out visitors feel better because you got to understand looking at this thing from a visitors point of view, the worse nightmare any visitor to Belize can image, is coming to Belize and while you're here when your taking your test just before you go home, boom it's positive, so now your world is turned upside down because you can't leave Belize, you don't know when you're going to test negative, you're not sure who is going to pay for your hotel room, who's going to pay for your medical care should you need it. What this provision of insurance is it takes away all that worry and I would add personally at my resort, our intention is for all our visitors when they make reservations, we will pay their insurance premium for them. They way I have to look at it is Belize as a country is competing in the tourism with 200 other countries. In the region, it's every Caribbean country, it's Costa Rica, it's Mexico, it's a tough competition, anything that we can do to ease the mind of visitors is a good thing and I believe essentially again from the personal side, if I can offer my potential guest who are trying to decide whether to go to Costa Rica, Playa Del Carmen or Placencia, if I can entice them by saying look, I'm going to buy you a 50,000 insurance policy, that's gotta be a good thing and I can afford the 18 dollars, I think it's great marketing tool."

Jules Vasquez
"But not all of them can afford it, you will accept that."


Steward Krohn
"Well it's not a question of if you can afford to pay it, its can you afford not to pay it. I think that the mistake that BTB may have made is that by announcing this kind of without giving the details their leaving it open to a lot of speculations, so they have just come on the website and said, hey starting February 15th, you're going to need health insurance, details will follow. As usual, the devil is always in the details, people want to know the details, so when you tell a visitor on your website you're going to need health insurance, the first thing I would do if I'm a visitor, a I would be bummed out because they are telling me there is a new requirement and I'm tired of putting up with requirements and b if I still want to come to Belize I'm going to call up my insurance company and say, get me some health and travel insurance which might cost me a couple 100 dollars instead of 18 dollars."

Notably, while the press release says that the new insurance is "an effort to further protect the health and wellbeing of international visitors and Belizeans from COVID-19," there is absolutely no indication that this is a temporary measure for only as long as the pandemic persists. Every indication is that the insurance charge will continue to apply for the foreseeable future.

Channel 7


Joined: May 2000
Posts: 7,051
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The way BTB launched its announcement was the false step - the info should have been announced including details of how this would be implemented and the cost involved. Most travelers already opt to carry travel insurance due to the uncertainty of international border closures, airline cancellations and, at the moment, the fact that covid infections can prevent travel or prolong it etc. The cost of $18 per traveller is inexpensive and certainly much lower than the rates most already pay - now it will be interesting to see the full policy fine print to ensure that the general promise will work in real life situations.

I have seen so many guests and small Mom and Pop boutique hotels suffering financially because of lack of insurance. If a guest test positive for covid and has to stay longer it is a financial hardship for them to have to continue paying for a hotel room - plus have to have all meals delivered. And for the small hotel, it has to then cancel the next guest's arrival which means a black eye on travel review sites. Most hotels reduce their rates for covid positive guests so they see a loss there too. And then the cleaning operations are much higher due to heightened sanitation requirements.

Its seems that although unpopular this coverage may help ease the mind and the financial stress of unexpected delays, illness etc for a relatively low fee.

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,398
Marty Offline OP
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UDP Against Mandator Traveler's Insurance

The Belize Tourism Board is pushing ahead with its plan to implement a mandatory travelers health insurance on February 15th. That's less than a month away, but, we are told, the pushback against the new 18 US dollar fee from hotel owners is growing.

As we have reported - the fee would be paid by every visitor arriving in Belize through the airport or land borders. It would provide them with provide coverage up to $50,000 USD in medical expenses related to treatment of COVID-19 for a period of 21 days, or provide cover for lodging expenses due to quarantine up to $2,000 USD, as well as other medical events.

But, the UDP says, quote, "the notion of mandating visitors to purchase a particular policy from a designated insurance provider is a matter of grave concern." End quote. The Opposition adds that it amounts to, quote, "yet another tax on visitors coming to Belize." End quote.

The party warns, quote, "taxing visitors indiscriminately thereby increasing the costs of travel to Belize in a very competitive environment, may cause more harm than good in our national economic recovery efforts."

The UDP has also called for "full disclosure on the procurement guidelines employed to select the insurance provider." Most estimates say that will be a windfall for the insurance provider, since the revenue stream would amount to 5 to 10 million US dollars per year. We note that Costa Rica recently exempted all vaccinated persons from the requirement for travel insurance and now require that "Anyone not fully vaccinated must have insurance which covers potential quarantine."

Channel 7

Joined: Oct 2007
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I always buy the health insurance the airlines offer does this mean some political persons padding their pockets

Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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BHA UPDATE: INSURANCE MANDATE

The results of the survey that we circulated on Monday January 17th indicated that 82% of you wanted BHA to go back to the government with questions and serious concerns about the upcoming insurance mandate for foreign visitors to Belize.

We requested a meeting with the BTB and on Thursday January 20th met with the Tourism Minister Hon. Anthony Mahler, the Director of Tourism Mr. Evan Tillett, and the CEO of Tourism Mrs Nicole Solano. We discussed the issues that were prominent among the comments we received from the properties we represent.

A primary concern was the ability to allow the visitors to acquire the insurance of their choice or use their existing insurance providing that it covered Belize's requirements which include, trip cancellation, medical emergencies during their Belize vacation and quarantine accommodations coverage. The trio explained that unlike the destinations that can show large projected volumes of tourist visitors, our numbers don't give us the same bargaining power with the larger international insurance companies. The consideration for visitors to use their existing insurance would have decreased the projected volumes that allowed the government to negotiate a rate of US$18. We also learned that they are in conversation with another foreign provider and one additional local provider which may come onstream as additional options if they can offer the same coverage at US$18 or less.

The second point involved the very valid concerns of yet another documentation verification requirement that will add to the bottleneck situation at the PGIA. The CEO explained that the immigration point which does the checks will be responsible for validating and the red and green line process that is presently utilized to fast track those that have all necessary documents will continue to be utilized so that there will be no interruption at the airport come February 15th 2022.

We asked questions in respect to the life of the mandate and they explained that the implementation of the insurance mandate for foreign visitors falls under the Public Health Regulations; therefore, just as we hope to see certain regulations relaxed when things normalize, we got a commitment from the BTB team that this would also be considered for revision and hopefully become optional eventually.

Many properties understandably had questions about the claim process for the three scenarios that would activate a claim:

- Trip cancellation before guests arrive
- Emergency medical attention during the guest's vacation
- Quarantine / trip extension due to Covid

Trip Cancellation - If for some unforeseen Medical Emergency, injury, or death of the insured, or a close family member, and the policy holder is unable to travel, they will be reimbursed for their hotel expenses up to a maximum of 3,000.00 US. Dollars. The insured will contact a 24hr call center where they will be guided in regards to documents that will need to be provided, for example invoice from the hotel, or a medical form in the case of injury. Once they meet the criteria, the policyholder will be reimbursed and will not need to be concerned about a refund from the hotel property if the cancellation falls outside of the Hotel's cancelation window.

In-Country Medical Emergency - The policyholder will reach out to a local telephone number which is linked to the 24-hour call center. The call center will then reach out to their network of doctors, medical facilities, and ambulance services depending on severity of the illness. They will guide the policyholder through the process, and the Third-Party Administrator (WTA) will settle payments with providers, up to the 50,000 US policy limit.

Covid 19 Quarantine - The policy holder will reach out to a local telephone number which is linked to the 24 hour call center. Basic information will be required, including the hotel in which they are staying. If for some reason the facility is not an approved Covid 19 facility (if mandated to be) they will arrange for the person to be transported to an approved facility. Once there the policy holder will be reimbursed a maximum of 300.00 US per day, up to a maximum of 2,000.00 US.

The link for the purchase of the insurance is still not available but we will ensure to inform and guide our members as soon as BTB makes that link available. As always, we continue to be the voice of our members and commit to responsible and fair mediation between our government leaders in the industry, and you, our members who are the lifeline of this industry that our economy so heavily depends on.

Alina Saldivar
President
Belize Hotel Association

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,398
Marty Offline OP
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15 Major Resorts Reject It - But Tourism Minister Stand By Mandatory Travelers' Insurance

Tourists who want to come into Belize via air travel and land will need to purchase traveler's insurance starting on February 15th. And while some stakeholder groups have backed this decision, 15 of the major hotels in Belize - including Chaa Creek, Blancaneaux Lodge, Turtle Inn, Alaia, and more - have sent a letter to the minister in protest of the new requirement. They say that other countries in the region are relaxing their restrictions while Belize is doubling down on strict measures, and this might put the country at a disadvantage compared to its competition. We asked the Minister of Tourism about this today and he explained that out of the 900 hotels in the country, they can't stop and drop everything just for 15 of them.

Hon. Anthony Mahler, Minister of Tourism
"We haven looked at this thing for some time, we were in a position where Omicron was ranging all over the place, there were a lot of cancellations and so we're trying to help to protect the industry. We have almost 900 properties throughout this country, and most of them are under ten rooms, and most of them after 2 years of being devastated by COVID are on the brink and so we have to ensure that not only big players survive but also small players."

Courtney Menzies:
"But our competition in the region, they're opening up more, so don't you think that puts Belize back like people might not want to come here as much?"

Hon. Anthony Mahler, Minister of Tourism
"What do you mean by opening up?"

Courtney Menzies:
"Like Costa Rica is saying you only need a vaccination, you don't need a test or any of that."

Hon. Anthony Mahler, Minister of Tourism
"And we'll get there, we are in constant communication with the Ministry of Health but there are many,, many countries around this world that do require insurance to go in and that is still a reality. I speak to ministers who still have that requirement as a part of the protocols for entering that country."

Courtney Menzies:
"Some of those hotels are saying that bookings are being cancelled or sold because there is no portal available yet, because it's something come in on the 15th, I believe, the insurance, but there's no portals, there's no structure, there's nothing to tell the tourists what to do so now they're cancelling their bookings."

Hon. Anthony Mahler, Minister of Tourism
"I don't think agree with that, I really don't agree. If that is the case, then we'll have to talk to those properties, but as I understand it, the portal should be up by early next week so well in advance of the February 15th launch date."

"We have tour operators committed, we have tour guides committed, we have air line committed, we have members of BTIA and BHI on our board, with consult with the NGO community we should be dictated by 15 hotels?"

Channel 7


15 Major Hotels Come Out Against Travel Insurance

Fifteen major properties have come out against the travel insurance that the Ministry of Tourism plans to impose on February fifteenth. �On Monday, we reported that the Belize Tourism Industry Association has come out in support of the insurance that will cost each traveller approximately eighteen dollars, but will assist with their accommodation and hospital expenses if they are to contract COVID-19 and need quarantine or medical services.� But according to these major hotels, the insurance puts them at a disadvantage.

Anthony Mahler, Minister of Tourism & Diaspora Relations

"We are trying to help to protect the industry. We have almost nine hundred properties in this country and most of them are under ten rooms, most of them are under ten rooms. Most of them after two years of being devastated by COVID are on the brink and so we have to ensure that not only the big players survive, but also the small players. We are in constant communication with the Ministry of Health, but there are many countries across the world that do require insurance to go in and that is still a reality. I've spoken to ministers who still have that requirement as a part of the protocols for entering their country."

Reporter

"Are you planning on dialoguing with these fifteen hotels because they say they haven't gotten any response from the ministry; only the prime minister has given them a response?"

Anthony Mahler

"That is not true. We've responded already."

Are Bookings Being Cancelled Due to Lack of Insurance Portal?

A travel insurance portal is still in the works and expected to be ready by early next week, in time for February fifteenth when the requirement comes into effect. But some hotels say cancelations are already rolling in because the portal is not up and running. Tourism Minister Anthony Mahler says the delay is giving insurance companies the opportunity to satisfy the provisions to become an option for visitors on the portal.

Anthony Mahler, Minister of Tourism & Diaspora Relations

"I don't agree with that. If that is the case then we will have to talk to those properties. But as I understand it, the portal should be up by early next week, well in advance of the February fifteenth launch date."

Reporter

"Don't you think it is too reduced of a time because obviously travellers plan their trips way ahead?"

Anthony Mahler

"No, but the insurance is just being purchased. They can still plan to come to Belize. They can purchase anything, takes seconds."

Reporter

"And the portal is needed for what purpose?"

Anthony Mahler

"To purchase the insurance."

Reporter

"But then you said that it wasn't going to be localised. That they could purchase international insurance."

Anthony Mahler

"Yes, but it depends on which insurance. The insurance has to be approved by the B.T.B. because not all international insurance has the cancelation policy. There is no exclusivity. The insurance is open to any company that meets the requirements that B.T.B. has established, including a cancelation policy. That is a critical part of what we want as a part of this insurance policy."

Channel 5


Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 2,538
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This travel insurance idea sounds like a get-rich-quick scheme that someone has cooked up a year too late. The market has long adapted, the WHO is recommending to lift or ease COVID-19 travel restrictions, while some countries are ending all virus restrictions. Abandoning this bizarre idea is the best option to save face and maintain credibility.


Live and let live
Joined: Jan 2021
Posts: 17
J
Offline
J
So...the $450 travel insurance policy I bought to cover the same things, and more, was not a smart purchase because I have to buy the $18 policy as well? I am arriving in Belize on the 9th and leaving on the 19th. If the policy takes effect on the 15th, how will that apply to me?

Joined: Nov 2002
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You are entering Belize before the 15th, so you don't have to buy the government insurance.


Live and let live
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