There are nine hundred plus properties and hotels that provide accommodations for the thousands of tourists that make their way to Belize annually. Over the weekend, another was added to the list when El Ben Caba�as located on the north side of Caye Caulker opened. The owners have been coming to Belize for years and were all set to begin work on their dream project when COVID hit. But now, their dream is real and ready to welcome visitors. Duane Moody reports.��

Duane Moody, Reporting

It's the brainchild of Brian and Zaira McWhirter who have been visiting Belize for over a decade. Years ago, the idea of a resort on a property on north side Caye Caulker was conceptualized. Fast forward to 2022, El Ben Caba�a, named after their grandchildren Eleanor and Benjamin, has been realised and was officially opened to tourists.

Zaira McWhirter, Owner, El Ben Caba�a

"El Ben, we finally see after four years due to the pandemic and everything else that go along with it, we finally see our dream come true. We have a great team of people out where with us. We wanted something island-ish, natural and we chose to go with this type of setting for El Ben."

Duane Moody

"What is it that you want people who visit El Ben to take away? What is the experience that you want them to have?"

Brian McWhirter, Owner El Ben Caba�a

"I want them to feel like they made friends. They came here and left knowing that the people that they were around were friends, they're lifelong friends. Belize offers everything. We came here twelve years ago and we were so blessed. We enjoyed staying here. We had no intentions of ever developing a project, never doing anything until this property became available, we bought it. Didn't do anything for a couple of years, then we decided, like she said, let's get something like we had in the Maldives. That's how we started this place and never looked back."

As the boat pulled up to the dock, a boardwalk through the mangroves opens up to the uniquely designed landscape, which provides a warm touch. Thatched cabanas surround the property while the pathway takes you to key locations. General Manager Herold Ovares speaks of the amenities.

Herold Ovares, General Manager, El Ben Caba�a

"We have double rooms, which means it has two beds, and also single rooms. We also have two suites so the total of twenty-eight. So we expect to have in full capacity around sixty people. So yes, we have two suites, ocean front and pool view rooms. Our rooms are equipped with air conditioning, hot water, king size beds, full size beds, queen size beds. This is a place that we are going to welcome all Belizeans and visitors as well. We have two pools; we have a restaurant so we are just waiting for all of you here."

With the tourism industry already on the road to full recovery, and more airlifts to Belize coming on stream, there is a need for adequate accommodations to cater to the various types of travellers coming to Belize. So the opening of El Ben Caba�a is welcomed by the Belize Tourism Board.

Evan Tillett, Tourism Director

"Development and investment in tourism means that you have a real destination that can compete on a global level. In a time where COVID has decimated the industry for the past two years and you have an investor in terms of Mrs. Z and Brian willing to invest in north Caye Caulker speaks volumes of our destination. And so we welcome that sort of investment in a country where you have only nine hundred hotels and nine thousand rooms where the average size of a hotel is ten rooms. We need additional development. Development like this is really important for the tourism product. We need diversification in terms of the tourism product. There is a need for more branded properties, there is a need for all-inclusive properties and of course there's always room for more boutique properties in the tourism industry. And so developments like El Ben we welcome in the tourism product."

And while the property has been officially opened, investments are being made to provide in-house spa services and aquatic tours, sport fishing and more to its guests.

Herold Ovares

"We are planning to offer for all our visitors and Belizeans as well, any kind of tours - here on the island and also inland. As well, we are going to have our own jet skis, kayaks, paddle boards, electrical bikes so people can rent them and go around to the island, across to the next side and have fun. If someone needs a flight, water taxi services; anything they want, we will provide that service for them. Our goal is everyone that visits El Ben Caba�as to just come to relax and we will do everything for them."

For information about availability and rates, you can go to the El Ben website, but the owners say there will be promotions and special Belizean rates.

Channel 5