Five years have passed since the Belize Tourism Board revised its Cruise Tourism Policy. With the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, B.T.B. says the time has come to address the gaps within the tourism industry. This morning, cruise tourism stakeholders gathered in Belize City for a national cruise tourism policy planning workshop to update the current policy. Those in attendance included tour operators, cruise port representatives, archaeologists, and members of the Protected Areas Conservation Trust. Evan Tillett, Director of the Belize Tourism Board, says the workshop was designed to engage stakeholders on areas that require strengthening and improvement within the industry.

Evan Tillett, Director, Belize Tourism Board


"Today's event is definitely about addressing the gaps within the cruise tourism industry. The last review of this policy was done in 2017 and so the dynamics have changed. We have gone through a pandemic. The ships they are building are bigger ships and so you have birthing facilities being built and so all these things were not addressed in the previous policy. So, today we expect that we will move along the process of developing a new cruise tourism policy that will guide us for the next ten years, up to twenty thirty two. The pandemic basically stopped tourism in a sense. So we have to look at things that will mitigate that from happening in the future. During the pandemic we were listening to the doctors, the Ministry of Health, and we have a very close and dynamic relationship with them. So, the policy will definitely include some aspects of what the health department, the Ministry of Health will help to guide. We are not the experts, they are. I definitely think a meaningful policy will emerge. Because you have the key stakeholder in the room that will definitely add to piecing together or putting together the policy that will guide us for the next ten years."

Berthing, The Future of Cruise Tourism in Belize

To thrive in the future of cruise tourism, Belize's cruise industry is in need of berthing facilities. Royal Caribbean, one of Belize's partners in the industry, recently announced that its largest cruise vessel to date, Utopia of the Seas, will be launched in two years. In the absence of a berthing facility, Belize will be unable to facilitate the approach and mooring of these huge vessels. This will lead to significant losses in revenue for the local industry, says Tillett, who spoke on the importance of today's workshop as a medium for highlighting this great need.

Evan Tillett, Director, Belize Tourism Board


"I think that one thing we do within tourism is that sustainability is the underpinning of every single thing we do. We have one cruise port currently being built. There is brick and mortar in the ground, investment in the ground. The others are in the pipeline. At the end of today, I think that the need for a berthing facility is huge, because if we don't get a berthing facility, with the bigger ships that are being built, they will bypass Belize and we will start to lose numbers in the cruise tourism industry and we cannot have that, because the cruise tourism sector provides a lot of socioeconomic benefits for a lot of people. It creates a lot of entrepreneurs, for the hair braiders, tour operators, tour guides. So, it creates a meaningful way to earn a decent living. So, it is very important. I think this is an all inclusive process. They still represent and have interest within the cruise tourism sector. I cannot give you the answer in terms of which ones will come to fruition, but at the end of the day the decision will be made by the Government of Belize and the underpinning of that decision will also be about sustainability."

Cruise Tourism Steadily Rebounds in 2022

Evan Tillett also answered questions pertaining to the rebound of the cruise tourism industry. Tillett says, while the industry is yet to record 2019 numbers, the outlook for the sector in Belize is promising.


Evan Tillett, Director, Belize Tourism Board


"In terms of the numbers, it is not at 2019 numbers, and it will be a rebuilding process. I think when we opened the airport we saw maybe six months before we got some real traction, and I am expecting that the same thing is happening with the cruise tourism sector. The outlook is good, even in the overnight sector; the arrivals for July are really promising. We think that we will have a very robust season for both cruise and overnight."

Reporter

"You mentioned that you are hoping that the numbers should bounce back to 2019 levels soon, but recently the CDC announced that they would no longer be monitoring COVID19 cases on cruise ships. Do you foresee that do be an issue for us this year?"

Evan Tillett, Director, Belize Tourism Board

"Well, CDC and in our case, the Ministry of Health they are the experts. They just removed all the protocols that are there for COVID 119. From that perspective, I don't see that hindering the rebound of tourism, whether it be cruise of overnight."

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