By Aaron Humes: Belize has officially launched the second phase of the Sustainable Tourism Program, focusing on emerging destinations and funded by a 30 million Belize dollar loan from the Inter-American Development Bank secured last October and executed in January.
Whereas the first phase of the Program in 2013 consolidated projects in major tourism destinations in Belize – Ambergris Caye, Placencia, Belize City and San Ignacio – and generated the National Sustainable Tourism Master Plan 2030 (NSTMP), the second is designed to support the implementation of the NSTMP in new and emerging destinations: the Corozal District, Toledo District/Punta Gorda, the Mountain Pine Ridge/Chiquibul/Caracol complex, and Caye Caulker.
The program will increase tourism expenditures, employment and income; promote disaster and climate resilience and environmental sustainability in tourism destinations; and create enabling conditions for private sector investment in overnight tourism.
The IDB reports that a key component of the project aims to expand and restore visitor facilities at archaeological sites, including a state-of-the-art museum at Caracol, and to support the development of nature-based tourist attractions and services in the selected destinations. Additional major infrastructure upgrades in the destinations are programmed to support tourism development in municipalities, rural areas, and protected areas.
STP II is the first tourism loan approved by the IDB that systematically mainstreams biodiversity and ecosystem services. “Mainstreaming biodiversity in tourism development will contribute to a shift towards informed management of social and ecological systems,” said IDB Project Team Leader Sybille Nuenninghoff.
Belize’s tourism industry has benefited from 43 million US dollars in investment by the IDB between 1998 and 2015. It contributes 15 percent of total direct gross domestic product (GDP) and generated nearly 800 million US dollars in foreign exchange earnings in 2014. At 35 percent of total exports of goods and services, tourism is responsible for one of every six jobs held in Belize.
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