Belize Coastal Tourism Study released

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 16, No. 33            August 17, 2006

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Amy Dietrich presented her findings on Tuesday to members of the San Pedro Community.

An intensive study of the impact of tourism on Belize’s coastal communities was released in San Pedro Tuesday night with mixed reaction. While the study applauds the efforts by the Belize tourism community to embrace ecotourism, it also offers suggestions to best capitalize on the cruise ship tourism sector. “For better or worse, cruise tourism is here to stay,” the report reads.

    Amy Diedrich, the author of the report which includes a 320 page dissertation, explained to the small group of interested participants who attended the forum the basis of her study. The purpose of the Belize Coastal Tourism Project was to assess the environmental, socio-cultural and economic impacts of tourism in six coastal communities in Belize including Belize City, San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Placencia, Hopkins and Punta Gorda.

    Diedrich said that while many of the results may seem obvious, her scientific methods of obtaining the data will help with future decision making. She plans to share her findings with stakeholders in each of the communities studied in August and finally will meet with members of the Belize Tourism Board and the Belize Tourism Industry Association September 1st, 2006.

    Her recommendations include: With respect to coastal communities:

  • Continue to encourage and facilitate local entrepreneurship and small business development.
  • Increase community infrastructure and pollution mitigation capacity to accommodate growth in tourism and associated coastal development.
  • Continue to involve local communities in all stages of tourism planning and development.
With respect to hotels and marine recreation providers:
  • Continue to work with existing initiatives to improve environmental standards and develop Best Practices for hotels and tour operators.
  • Develop formal regulations for the sailboat charter industry relating to environmental conduct.
With respect to cruise ship tourism:
  • Embrace cruise tourism as a real and significant component of Belize’s tourism market that, if properly managed, should not compromise the overnight tourism industry.
  • Apply specific management measures to marine areas to be used primarily by cruise ship tourists.
  • Invest in revitalizing Belize City.
  • Increase opportunities for independent guides and smaller tour companies to benefit from cruise tourism.
With respect to future tourism development:
  • Continue to develop and improve conservation and education programs at local and national levels, particularly in relation to Marine Protected Areas.
  • Establish and enforce carrying capacity in all Marine Protected Areas.
  • Develop a National Zoning Plan for different types of tourism development.
With respect to future tourism development:
  • Recognize the long-term benefits of targeting higher spending, independent tourists as opposed to all-inclusive mass tourists.
  • Recognize that Belize is in a critical stage of tourism development where actions today will govern the future of the country as a tourism destination.
  • Take full advantage of the interest Belize is generating in the academic research community.

   Diedrich is a researcher from the Department of Marine Affairs at the University of Rhode Island in the USA. She surveyed over 700 people for the study including local Belizeans and tourists. To obtain a copy of her results or for more information you can email her at:
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