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The Belize Tourism Board (BTB) today hosted the Building On Our Momentum (B.O.O.M.) Forum at the Best Western Belize Biltmore Plaza in Belize City. The forum shared major achievements, opportunities, and the future outlook for Belize's tourism industry with a wide selection of hoteliers, tour operators, and industry partners, from across the country.

Representatives from BTB's partner agencies, the Zimmerman Agency (USA) and Development Counsellors International (Canada) shared key highlights, results, and insights, on targeted marketing efforts in their respective niche markets. These included the Grab Life Campaign, Sports Illustrated cover and video shoot, travel publication features, and trade shows. They also highlighted campaign ideas and travel trends to complement stakeholder marketing efforts in 2022-2023. BTB's Director of Marketing and Communications, Mrs. Michelle Bowers-Flowers, recapped Belize's global performance, post-pandemic recovery journey, and BTB's focus moving forward.

Mr. Alfredo Gonzalez, International Sales Manager for Frontier Airlines, oriented stakeholders to the airline's offering. This was complemented by a giveaway of FIVE $250USD travel vouchers won by Kendis Ferguson (Tour Operator, Foolish Dreams), Karen Waight Canul (Owner, Ambergris Divers), Edson Dubon (Krem Television), Judy Mu�oz (Owner, One South Place Hotel), and Chelsea Johnston.

Break-out sessions held in the afternoon elaborated on topics such as influencer marketing, business intelligence and strategic decision-making, public relations, and the importance of the Travel Belize website.

Highlighting the industry's rebound and continued growth, the Minister of Tourism and Diaspora Relations, Hon. Anthony Mahler remarked that, "The reality is that this momentum is not happening by chance or organically. It is as a result of working hard and smart. It is as a result of dedication. And most importantly, it is as a result of our collaboration with you our stakeholders, large, small and micro."

Mrs. Nicole Usher Solano, CEO of the Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations, was the Master of Ceremonies and the closing remarks were delivered by Mrs. Angelique Hasley, Director of Human Resources, on behalf of Mr. Evan Tillett, Director of Tourism.

Click photos for more pictures!

BTB's B.O.O.M. Forum 2022

BTB's B.O.O.M. Forum | What's Ahead

BTB's B.O.O.M. Forum | What's Ahead

BTB's B.O.O.M. Forum | Frontier Airlines Connect

BTB's B.O.O.M Forum | Influencer Marketing - How to Develop Compelling Content | Levering Business Intelligence for Strategic Decision Making | Success through a Choreographed Approach to PR | Why You Should add your Business on

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What's Next For Tourism

And moving onto the tourism sector, the industry has famously rebounded since the first year of COVID 19 in Belize, when it was forced to completely shut down.

We've gone from zero international arrivals to about 50% of where we were pre-pandemic in less than two years.

And the projections are that this number will only grow - but it's not going to get there on its own.

And that's why the Belize Tourism Board is trying to build on the momentum that Belize already has - and that's what gave rise to the BOOM Forum.

That event was held today at the Biltmore and saw the input of tourism stakeholders across the country. It gave them an idea of where we are and presented the vision of where we want to be. Courtney Menzies was there and has this story.

Ziplining through the jungles, climbing up ancient Maya temples, diving into the depths of the sea - these are only some of the adventures Belize boasts of. And while locals know what the country has to offer, the Belize Tourism Board has embarked on a journey to get the word out as far as it can go.

And today was just the start - BTB updated its stakeholders on the way forward at the BOOM forum - Building On Our Momentum - taking what is already a valuable product and transforming it in new ways.

Anthony Mahler, Minister of Tourism
"We have to take a wholistic approach on how we market Belize, we don't have huge budgets like other major destinations but what we have is creativity, what we have is passion, what we have is know-how and we've partnered with the right agencies for us to get the message out and we're utilising social media, we're using print, we're using traditional marketing efforts, PR, all of these things that we're doing, influencers, and so when you combine them together, that creates some level combustion for Belize and Belize is top of mind these days."

"We'll continue to have a discussion with the industry, to assess what is working and what is not and then we make the necessary adjustments and we continue to drive Belize forward in terms of tourism and the marketing of Belize. Tourism now represents, according to the economic development, almost 47% of GDP and so we take that responsibility very very seriously."

And BTB's not in it alone - they're working with two PR firms: The Zimmerman Agency in the US, Development Counsellors International from Canada, and Frontier Airlines.

And Cole Zimmerman explained about the strategy they want to use to take Belize's marketing to the next level - taking advantage of those tourists hungry for travel.

Cole Zimmerman, Zimmerman Agency
"Obviously the last two years have been a little bit of a rollercoaster with COVID coming and going and as that settles down, you're starting to get in the revenge travel phase and what we're doing to make sure we are capitalising that is meeting people where they want to be met, whether that's on mobile, whether that's on gaming, whether that's on streaming TV, we're making sure we're getting the Belize message out there and in front of those people in an enticing way. We also do things called conquest, we're going after competitive sect, going after Costa Rica, going after Dominican Republic, Mexico, making sure that when people are researching those, they're actually getting Belize messaging, hoping that we could control where they go and drive them to the destination."

"Belize is an easy sell, in general, but as we eluded to in the meeting, not everyone knows where Belize is, they don't know that you can get here from Atlanta in two and a half hours, they don't know you can get here from Miami in two hours, very short distance and it's relatively familiar since we're using the US dollars here, you use the English language here as well, people continue to want to look for travel but there's barriers that Belize doesn't have, and it's making sure that people understand that there aren't those barriers here."

And they'll be using BTB's "Grab Life" campaign to reel in tourists who are looking to tick off another activity from their bucket list.

Cole Zimmerman, Zimmerman Agency
"As far as future projections go, COVID in general has become more of a common cold, where people get a common cold every year, that's not hindering travel as much as it was a year and a half ago, the media's not focusing on it as much as a risk, it's more, people have been pent up and done a lot of domestic travel in the US last year and a half which is just driving two hours outside their town and maybe go on a mini hike, it's not Grab Life in Belize and I think that's really where the campaign for Belize is really strong, it's talking about grabbing life, it's talking about getting that bucket list travel and really enjoying life and making the most of it and you can do that here and not only can you do that in Belize, but it's not just one thing, you have over 1,000 different things that you can do in Belize from relaxing on the beach and taking a catamaran out to an island, scuba diving, from cave repelling, from doing all different things from jungle to sea, there's a wide variety of things you can do here in a short amount of time, you can only fly fifteen minutes and already be in Cayo District in the jungle or you can fly fifteen minutes and be in San Pedro on a beautiful beach, another fifteen minutes to take you to Placencia and Hopkins so a lot of things you can do on a small radius that you can do on a two day trip, a three day trip, a ten day trip and still get the experience that you're looking for no matter how long you're trying to be here in the country."

And while The Zimmerman Agency's PR team managed to reach 2.9 billion people last year, they've got new ideas to reach even more - one of which you might raise an eyebrow for:

Cole Zimmerman, Zimmerman Agency
"The Epic Elope is a new idea, it is making sure that people- right now, in general in the US everyone's kind of seeing the influx of the dollar in general with inflation but with that inflation one of the biggest things is weddings, when you think of weddings, it's like if I have to spend 50,60 thousand dollars on a wedding, and now that's going up to 80 to 100 thousand dollars to have a wedding, compared to I can come to Belize and spend 5-10 grand and have a epic trip that's an elopement trip where I can go do something incredible, keep in mind the elopement idea is not standing in front of a courthouse and getting married, it is Epic weddings where you can do things that are incredible that you can't do anywhere else in the world."

And for now, Minister Mahler said that the discussions continue to bring this vision to life.

Tourism Minister Says Tourism Can Survive Another COVID Wave

Perhaps those most concerned about this latest COVID wave are the tourism stakeholders - they were the ones hit the hardest during the first wave and many of them wouldn't survive another round of regulations and lockdowns.

And yesterday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added 5 new destinations to its high risk category for travelers - and Belize is one of them, along with the Bahamas, Monsterrat, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. With this, Belize moves from level 2 to level 3.

Undaunted, Minister Anthony Mahler said that no matter what happens, the tourism sector will always bounce back.

Hon. Anthony Mahler, Minister of Tourism
"Airlift into Belize and it wasn't guaranteed that all the flights and all the routes that we had and all the airlines that we were working with before Covid would have come back. We had to put in a tremendous amount of work to get those flights back and we still have some more work to do to get like Air Canada back and other flights."

"If I could have you expand a little bit on the question of the partners, obviously today you are here to share what the Ministry of Tourism and the Belize Tourism Board have been working on to get Belize out there all over. What are the expectation from the partners, the stakeholders to work along with what we have to offer?"

Hon. Anthony Mahler, Minister of Tourism
"Well, both BTIA and BHA sit on the board of directors for the Belize Tourism Board, so they have full access to what we are doing at the Belize Tourism Board and I have quarterly meetings with the organizations and we will continue to do so having a continuous dialogue and a true partnership with the industry is important for us as we move along. We can't have a ministry, we ant have any department from the Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations be disconnected from the people who have invested and work hard to help us build the most important industry for Belize."

"And then to some of what you shared in your presentation, your opening remarks this morning about a return to full cruise capacity I think it was by the end of this year. Where are we and how do we get there?"

Hon. Anthony Mahler, Minister of Tourism
"We are trending towards maybe 90%. The global cruise numbers will be trending towards 100%. It is important for us to truly get a docking facility and we are working with the stakeholders. The cruise lines have said to us that because of the sizes of the ships that are being built."

Bright Prospects For Cruise Tourism

Earlier in the news, you heard the Tourism Minister express his confidence in the overnight tourism sector being able to rebound, no matter what.

And cruise tourism is also on its way to where it was pre-COVID. According the Minister Mahler, by the end of this year, the numbers should be way up - but that means the proposed cruise ports are a priority.

He noted that Stakebank is a given, but added that the other two will have to get the clearance they need before they can move forward.

Hon. Anthony Mahler, Minister of Tourism
"We're trending towards maybe 90%, the global cruise number will be trending towards 100%, it is important for us to truly get a docking facility and we're working with the stakeholders, the cruise lines have said to us because of the sizes that are being built that tendering is now feasible for them so the fast we get Stakebank on board, and if other ports are built, the better for us. My responsibility is for us to bring more ships in a sustainable way and to partner with the cruise lines to ensure that tours and other activities are sold here in the country. Belize is one of the leading tour destinations throughout this region."

"I'll leave the expert to provide the level of environmental clearance, we'll work with other government departments to do the economic feasibility of the projects and then we, like I've said, government is to create and enabling environment where private sector can thrive and that's what we want to do but each investor, each entity has to go through the necessary requirements to ensure that they can do their development."

"There is going to be a point whereby the larger ships will bypass Belize because they will not tender and you will see a decrease in the numbers. As we move forward, we may see a decrease in the numbers of calls, but we can see an increase in the number of arrivals. You have a ship that can hold 7,000 and so that is one call compared to two ships, three ships, coming in that may hold 2,500/3,000 and so there is a kind of shift in the industry moving towards those mega liners."

Channel 7

Belize Tourism Board Hosts BOOM Forum

Building On Our Momentum, it's a one-day forum that was hosted by the Belize Tourism Board today to highlight major achievements and opportunities, as well as the future outlook for the country's tourism industry. In attendance were hoteliers, tour operators and industry partners from across the sector. Leading the presentations were the Zimmerman Agency and Development Councilors International. They used the opportunity to launch the Grab Life Campaign as well as other scheduled events to promote Belize internationally.

Anthony Mahler, Minister of Tourism & Diaspora Affairs

"We decided that we wanted to share with the industry, Belizeans and the world what we're doing in tourism, the strategies that we are using from a marketing perspective, what we've done and where we are going in the near future. Last year, the global average was about twenty percent.� In Belize it was fifty percent.� This year, we are looking at fifty percent globally, while Belize is around seventy to seventy-five percent and some months have been even higher.� And so, while the experts had said that it would take two to three years for us to rebound and for the region to rebound, we have done so in pretty much a year or so. We have to take a holistic approach on how we market Belize.� We don't have huge budgets like other major destinations, but what we have is creativity, what we have is passion and what we have is know-how and we've partnered with the right agencies for us to get the message out and we're utilizing digital, we're utilizing social media and we're using print and traditional marketing efforts, PR.� All of these things that we're doing, influencers, and when you combine them together that creates some level of combustion for Belize and Belize is top-of-mind these days."

Channel 5

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Marty Offline OP
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BTIA'sTourism Summit – Reimagining Belizean Tourism

The Belize Tourism Industry Association, B.T.I.A., held a Summit today that drew members from far and wide to hear about efforts to improve formal training for those in tourism, and how stakeholders should prepare their businesses for the future. The event, which bore the theme, 'Reimagining Belizean Tourism', took place this morning at the Best Western Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel. Marion Ali was there and filed this report.

Marion Ali, Reporting

The opening ceremony for the event established a setting of planning, preparation, and reflection on the brutal impacts of COVID on the industry. B.T.I.A. President, Stewart Krohn expressed regret that not enough people heeded the advice to take their COVID vaccines and the fact that the pandemic claimed so many people, both from the industry, as well as from other sectors. Krohn also urged everyone to look beyond just the horizon.

Stewart Krohn, President, B.T.I.A.

"Try and think where we're going as an industry, as a nation, as a people. We have a lot to offer to our country and it's going to require some – I would say, yes, we all know it requires hard work, but it's not hard work alone that is going to make us succeed. It's hard work, but sometimes we have to think, okay, we have to think beyond what's for lunch today."

Former Bahamian Tourism Minister, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, who was today's guest speaker, advised that key elements are needed in order to make the tourism product wholesome.

Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, Keynote Speaker, B.T.I.A., Summit

"What are we really talking about in terms of measures of success? What are we talking about? When we start talking about that - it's very important, visitor nights, which translates into occupancy. If you have this facility that you have built with a hundred rooms, but every night you're only filling forty rooms, but you keep talking about getting new investors, you've got a new investor right here with sixty rooms vacant. So try and figure out ways to begin to expand the occupancy and expand the visitor night, which is very important. The second part of it is the visitor experience. There is no substitute for it; none whatsoever. People walking away saying they're going to recommend you and they are going to come back because of the wonderful experience - there's no substitute for that."

An integral part of the preparation for today's event included collaboration with the University of Belize, whose Interim President, Dr. Vincent Palacio, shared that the university's new effort to streamline its tourism course is a serious attempt to produce better quality tourism students.

Dr. Vincent Palacio, Interim President, U.B.

"We are currently reviewing the National Sustainable Tourism Master Plan and we are in conversation in establishing a National Tourism Training Institute. You told us that our tourism graduates had too much management skills and not enough hospitality skills. What we did, we went back and developed a Bachelor's degree in Hospitality Management. We incorporated a class called communication skills in the curriculum for every tourism student. And you said they don't write too well. The Bachelor's level students have to take a technical Writing course. Come August, every student who enrolls into the University of Belize, not just our tourism student, will have to take a class called Critical Thinking."

One of the upgrades that U.B. has taken to better prepare its tourism course is to make the course more available at all its sites across the country, as well as online for ease of access to people already employed.

Channel 5

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