Our news team also got a chance to speak with the new president of the Belize Hotel Association. Some of their members definitely qualify for these MSME programs as small business owners, especially the over 150 hoteliers who, due to financial reasons, had to close their doors during the COVID pandemic when the global tourism industry shut down completely.

Here's what he had to say about the possibility of reviving a few of those businesses now that tourism has returned:

"Is the BHA looking at ways to see how we could get some of those properties reopened?"

Reynaldo Malik - President, Belize Hotel Association
"Yes, as a matter of fact, one of the things that we are finalizing today is a member survey which we haven't done in a while. It's going to be a very comprehensive survey. And one of the things that we are going to be asking in there is which of our properties right now are utilized in any kind of financial incentive that's been made available by the government? If they are even aware that there are fiscal incentives out there. And then, what we intend to do, armed with that information, is then bridge that gap between them, the government of Belize, and other entities like the DFC, the IDB, etc. so that we can help to bring those properties that, unfortunately, suffered a demise during COVID. We can help to bring them back on stream because I think we're adding about 200 licensed hotels between pre-COVID and post-COVID right now."

"So even to this point?"

Reynaldo Malik
"Even to this point, yes, to the best of my knowledge, prior to COVID, we had over 900, almost 1000 licensed hotels, and we're only at 800 plus right now. So that, you know, that's quite a gap, particularly for a country that we basically subsist or sustain ourselves off of tourism. When you lose that much room inventory in the country, that's going to be a major problem because when you go out - there are all sorts of pieces that have to mesh together, right, for this whole product to work. There has to be an airlift into the country. There has to be marketing for it. And so, if you take a look at something, for instance, the BTB is now pushing festival tourism. A lot of people had things to say. Why did they go to San Pedro? Well, that's where the largest tourism inventory is. If you're looking to attract people to come in for a particular event, you have to make sure that they have somewhere to stay. And so, around the country, we don't necessarily have that concentration of room inventory. So, you have to make decisions like that. You go out and talk to an airline. Why don't you add Belize to the places that you fly? And the airline looks at you and goes - let's say you go to a budget airline and they tell you, plain, if I start to fly into your country and full up my airline, you can't sustain my traffic that I will put into your country. So all these things we have to take into account. Yes, it's nice and fine to say. Why doesn't that airline flight to Belize? You have to look at things like room inventory. That's where the conversation starts. Can you put all these people up if they come in?"

Channel 7