Erosion of our beaches, sargassum swarms, storm surges - these are all effects of climate change that take value from Belize's rebounding tourism industry. And that's why the leading stakeholders are trying to move away from traditional tourism and chart a path for sustainable and resilient tourism.

BTIA gathered these stakeholders today for a summit that seeks to reimagine tourism in Belize under a new marketing model aimed at protecting the country's resources.

Courtney Menzies was there today and she has the highlights of the morning session:

Though tourism is Belize's largest income earner, it is also one of its most fragile sectors and with climate change like an omnipresent and ominous cloud, the BTIA held its "Reimagining Belize Tourism" summit.

This summit tackled environmental concerns currently affecting tourism and ways that Belize can rebrand as a resilient tourist destination.

Linette Canto - Executive Director, BTIA
"We're looking at a variety of issues, we're looking at climate change which has certainly impacted the tourism industry greatly, we're looking at cruise ports, that is certainly an issue that has been debated in the Belizean society for a while now, we're looking at how do we market our tourism product. We know that there are a lot of countries fighting for a slice of the same pie so how do we market ourselves to be different to stand out. We're looking at the end of the summit, everyone is going to be coming together and the final panel will be looking at everything that was shared today and coming up with a strategic direction as to the way forward with the industry."

The first panel discussed whether beach tourism is actually an ‘endangered species.' Most of Belize's current marketing focus on white sands, blue waters, and incredible marine life, but those attractions are threatened by erosion, warmer waters, coral bleaching and plenty of other effects of climate change.

And according to the panels' moderator, the answer to that topic is not something you'd want to hear.

Janelle Chanona - Vice President, Oceana/Moderator
"Our illustrious panel had to concede, yes. And that's a hard thing to think about because if you think about how much of our development both in tourism and otherwise, our homes, are actually on our coastlines and we think about all our developments at cayes, it's really hard to think about that but that's why summit like this one that BTIA has organized are really helpful in making sure that awareness, that data, and that call to collective action is live and present because like you heard inside, it's really that we're running out of time, we know what we have to get done, but we have to make it happen. We're really talking about diversification both in terms of our branding, in terms of our development, the way we're developing, and perspective, so it's that we need to not be focusing so much on maybe the white sand tourism, the beach tourism, and really pushing that mangroves are awesome, seagrass is sensational, and really making sure that that's the kind of draw we're bringing and I think one presenter mentioned looping in guests that are coming to Belize to say, here's how you can participate, here's how you can help us to restore this eco-systems."

And the second set of panelists delved into cruise tourism and the two proposed cruise ports - Port of Magical Belize in the south and Waterloo's Port of Belize in Southside Belize City. Both representatives made their arguments for why their port should be the one to follow Port Coral on Stake Bank - but how many ports is too much?

Amanda Acosta - Executive Director, BAS/Moderator
"I think for us, there is a concern that there is a varying capacity within the country, Belize has limited resources, limited infrastructure, limited capacity of holding all of that and so naturally that is a question that has to be posed. We talk about viability from an economic point of view which a developer can argue, but we also have to talk about viability in terms of resources. The three ports together would probably be able to hold a capacity of over 10-12 ships, which is a very large number. We do not have the infrastructure to support that. The case of the Port of Belize Waterloo Gateway Commerce and Culture Project, you're looking at it being combined with the port expansion. Because it is being packaged together, the economics that they're discussing is a duality so it's both products in one. I would say the Port of Belize and the work that has to happen there has its own merits and it's a separate conversation and the cruise is another one. Magical Belize has far more complications in that they are talking about a port off of Sibun. It is in essence a very isolated location, all the infrastructure that would need to go in to support that venture is significant, not only in an investment but from an environmental point of view. There is an assessment and impacts that need to be explored far deeper that I think the Environment Impact Assessment went."

And that is just a snapshot of the types of discussions that were had between the panelists and the stakeholders present at the summit. But according to Canto, it doesn't end there:

Linette Canto
"We're hoping that at the end of the day, our participants will leave here feeling motivated and enlightened, feeling that they gained some knowledge that maybe they didn't have before but also one of the main things that will come out of this is that we're putting together a summit document. That document is going to be shared with our key tourism stakeholders, the general public, academia, and it will have a lot of insights, a lot of the suggestions that were shared, a lot of the issues that will be addressed and we're hoping that as the University of Belize revises the national sustainable tourism master plan that some of these ideas and suggestions will be a part of this discussion."

Channel 7