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Tourism and Technology Trends in Belize during 2018

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Posted: Tuesday, October 2, 2018. 6:01 am CST.

The opinion in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

By Nadir Smith: When it comes to two of the global market’s most lucrative industries – Tourism and Technology – Belize may not be the first country to spring to people’s minds. However, Belize has quickly become the fastest-growing holiday destination in the Caribbean, and is experiencing quite the upsurge in terms of innovation in the hottest tech sectors: Virtual Reality and Cryptocurrency.

“Unprecedented growth” in Tourism

During 2016/17, there was a definite upward trend in the amount of holidaymakers venturing to the country. 2018 has built on that to the point where the tourism industry here has experienced “unprecedented growth”, no doubt boosted by new air routes from US based carriers Southwest Airlines and airlines from Canada. Belize was even featured on ABC news this year for being the “best place to vacation”.

The Belize Tourism Board (BTB) has recently released statistics that certainly attest to this, which also show a clear and consistent trend in upward growth. During September 2018, over 21,000 overnight tourists arrived into the country – a 10.1% increase when compared to September 2017. Statistics taken at the end of Q3 2018 show that the total figures of overnight visitors into the region during the year had grown by 16.6% from the previous year.

Like many caribbean destinations, Belize is a popular cruise stop with many international lines and this sub-sector of the tourism industry has also shown clear growth in comparison to 2017. Over 66,000 passengers visited Belize in September, over 9000 more than 2017, which represents an increase of 15.9% on last year’s figures. Third quarter statistics for this sub-sector show that cruise ship arrivals for the year also increased by almost 20%.  

Cryptocurrency boom

Global cryptocurrency media may be dominated by stories emerging from big countries like Russia, China, the UK and the United States, but to those in the know, Belize is quietly making its mark on the crypto and blockchain industries.

Belize has become a world leader in the cryptocurrency exchange market

The country is one of two (the other being Malta) that are currently topping the leaderboards for the exchange sector of the cryptocurrency industry, in terms of trade volume. Thanks to Belize-based platforms and currency exchanges like 247exchange, investors from over 500,000 locations across the globe are utilising the resources available in Belize to trade popular coins like Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum. According to data compiled by financial experts Morgan Stanley, Belize, Malta and the neighbouring Seychelles are together generating daily cryptocurrency trades exceeding $2.6 billion

In 2018, Belize City saw its first cryptocurrency startup – XWIN CryptoBet – secure $1 million in funding, before the official ICO even launched. 3000 sports fans from around the world pledged their support for this innovative new wagering platform, which is based on the Ethereum blockchain. This in turn has brought the platform to the attention of South Korean and Japanese venture capitalists who, according to XWIN CEO Artyom Baikov are “venture capitalists specialising in blockchain startups” with a “particular interest” in XWIN.

So, what has led to this exponential rise in niche markets and technologies like cryptocurrency in Belize? There are very few regulations that restrict ICOs here, so the business ecosystem is friendly to investors and supports fundraising for startups and emerging platforms. Whilst crypto trading enterprises are regulated by the country’s International Financial Services Commission, the rules are remarkably different to those in the United States, where infractions can incur huge penalties and even prosecution.

Belize and Virtual Reality

Belize is no stranger to the iGaming industry, since it was one of the first regions to implement online gaming legislation back in 2006. Consequently, we could expect to see online casino platforms operating within the region embracing the new trend for implementing elements of Virtual Reality into online games. Currently pioneered in Europe by brands like PokerStars, VR is being integrated into classic games like poker to provide immersive, ground-breaking experiences in free-to-play formats.

For the moment, however, VR in Belize is being used in a completely different way. Our country is known for it’s beautiful diving areas and ancient archaeological sites, and Virtual Reality is helping to bring both to life for gamers and academics abroad. A VR experience featuring a real dive site in Belize was recently released on the popular Oculus Rift console – ‘Dive with Sylvia VR’. Led by renowned National Geographic explorer, Dr Sylvia Earle, the simulation leads gamers on an authentically captured tour of a real dive site, complete with wildlife, coral, reef fish and even whale sharks. Thanks to the experience, the natural beauty of Belize has been featured internationally in events like the UN Ocean Conference in New York, Earth Day TX in Dallas and the International Marine Protected Area Conference in Chile.

Cahal Pech, a ruined ancient Mayan site here in Belize may be well known within the country, however until now we’ve only been able to guess what the site once looked like. Two doctoral students from Penn State University – Jiawei Huang and Arif Masrur – have managed to recreate these historical ruins using virtual reality technology, offering archaeologists and scholars across the globe an insight into that ancient civilization that collapsed over 1000 years ago. This innovative project represents another coup for Belize, and will undoubtedly have a further, positive impact on travel and tourism to the country for many years to come.

 

 

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