The tourism industry has been rebounding in the past few months, and over the Easter weekend, the number of flights touching down at the P.G.I.A. and the tourists across the country are telltale signs of a booming industry. But while figures for the first quarter are up, Tourism Director Evan Tillett says that the numbers are not where they were pre-COVID.

Evan Tillett, Director of Tourism, B.T.B.

"We are currently still working on the numbers for 2021-2022, but what we have seen is definitely a rebound since the COVID pandemic. We remain positive that we will continue to rebound. I think Belize led the way in the region in terms of its rebounding as it relates to tourism visitation to our destination. We continue to focus on strategic marketing, which allows a lot of people to come into our country. And of course, we still have some gaps in tourism that we are working on in order to try and fix so that we can have a world class product and can compete on a global level. So in terms of the numbers, I would say, it is somewhere around seventy seventy-five percent of where we were 2019, in the last quarter. And so the outlook is very positive."

A Strategic Plan to Get Tourism Numbers Up

So what's the strategy to get those numbers up? Director Evan Tillett breaks down how that's going to look.

Evan Tillett, Director of Tourism, B.T.B.

"One of the things that we did was to focus on all the destinations or source markets that we have direct flights into the country. One of the key things that we did in terms of the recovery efforts was to ensure that we get back all of the flight connections that we had pre-COVID. We went beyond that, we actually got two new ones in 2021 and we are currently working on trying to get additional airlifts from the destinations in the U.S., we are also focusing on Europe, regional carriers as well to try and develop new markets for Belize. Mexico is a huge potential - they have a hundred and twenty million people. They are the second largest dive market right after the U.S. and they are our next door neighbours. We had seven thousand Mexicans coming to Belize in 2019. I find that number to be very low and I think that we can grow that number significantly if we do the right things. But the focus of the marketing strategy is to basically focus on where the source markets are and do targeted marketing in all the feeder markets that leads up to those direct flight routes."

Tourism Director Speaks on Calls to Port and Cruise Ports

A delegation from Belize left the country to meet with cruise line representatives to further develop the cruise tourism industry in Belize. The cruise sector is said to have been the hardest hit, in terms of tourism. While speaking about increasing calls to port in Belize, Tourism Director Evan Tillett was also asked about those cruise ports that are also coming on stream soon.

Evan Tillett, Director of Tourism, B.T.B.

"We continue to work with the lines to get new ships in. They are currently working on ramping up their numbers. They were at fifty percent in terms of capacity; they are as much as sixty seventy percent, almost eighty and then omicron hit and they had to regress. And so they are just now in the process of ramping up those numbers and so we should see a strong rebound in cruise tourism as we move into 2022. One of the critical things in cruise tourism is to have a docking facility. The ships that are being build are larger ships and having a tender port creates a lot of logistical issues and so we really need to have a port docking facility in Belize if we are to continue grow the cruise tourism numbers. If we don't get that, then we will end up losing numbers because the bigger ships will bypass our port. So it is critical that we have a docking facility in this country as quickly as possible."

Duane Moody

"What kinda assurances can be given to the small man that they will also be able to provide services to those tourists?"

Evan Tillett

"The B.T.B. is the regulator of the industry. In terms of ensuring that there is a fairness within the industry, we will do everything in our power to ensure that. Having a docking facility, does not really change the dynamics in terms of the tour operator side of the business. What it does, if you have a product that you can take to the cruise lines and can sell to the cruise lines, you can become contracted."

Channel 5