And that kind of warning was much on the mind of tourist stakeholders today as they met at the Biltmore Plaza Hotel.
The Belize Hotel Association held its 2020 Annual General Meeting to analyze just how seriously the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of the country's borders devastated the tourism industry and sector's financial bottom-line.
Normally, the Hotel Association's AGM's are mass-gathering events, where the hoteliers get important reports and tourism-related advice in person. But, because these are COVID times, and gatherings bigger than 10 are illegal, the executive members of the Association had to host this year's AGM using virtual tools.
7News stopped by, and spoke with the Association's president about his assessment of the local and international tourism trends at this stage in the global pandemic:
Ted Tejada - President, BHA
"From the first of October, at the airport to the 25th, we got the numbers. And it was a little bit above 3000 people who arrived at the PGA. Out of the 3000, 2012 of them were actual tourists coming to Belize, a little bit over 1100 were Belizeans returning home. So if you take 2012 and divided into the 25 days that the airport has been open, it averages 80 tourists per day."
"It only represents 5% of what normally believes sells. So normally, on an average month, Belize was getting about 45,000 tourists a month. When you're looking at 2000, it represents a very small fraction. We knew that this was going to happen. We knew that we needed to open. We needed to tell the world that we were open for business so that they can find the confidence to travel to our destination. So, it's going to take time. We know that, but if we take longer to operate, those recovery periods would be unsustainable."
"One of the things that we were able to show today [is] that our biggest market is the United States. The United States produces over 70% of the business from Belize. So, when you look at the census being done recently in the United States, out of 100, only 24% of the travelers are saying [that] they're willing to take an international trip. So, you have now cut down your traveling globally, because they not only supply Belize. They supply throughout the world tourism. You only have 24% that you can actually capitalize on, we actually looked as well, which are the top countries that they're traveling to. And unfortunately, Belize is nowhere to be found in the first 20 countries listed. When an American is asked where you are planning to travel, Mexico [and] Canada seem to be the top ones. So at this moment, we need to come up with a strategy and see how do we capitalize on becoming one of the top countries for them to think to travel for these next couple of months."
"We also look at that 24% that are willing to take an international trip. Why are they traveling? The number one item was family. They were traveling to be together with their family. They've been locked up too long in their countries. And they're traveling as a family. Second, they're also visiting relatives. Those were the two highlights that we saw. We look for example, on romantic trips. Only 15% out of 100 were saying they were considering a romantic trip. And when we look at the other visiting sites, it was only 5%. So for us, we're encouraging especially the hotels that have condos that have kitchenettes that can encourage families to come down to capitalize on that knowing that the 24% are actually looking to travel with family that this is an opportunity for them to capitalize on."
According to Tejada, for the entire duration of the time that the airport was closed, the hotel owners had to depend on local tourism, which only contributed about 1% of revenues that the industry usually generates.
He has also told his membership that Belize should look to Canada for focused tourism advertising and the establishment of a direct flight to Belize.