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Murdered tourist causing backlash in tourism sector

Posted: Friday, June 28, 2019. 10:45 am CST.

By BBN Staff: Belize’s tourism sector is beginning to feel the effects of the escalating crime situation as tourists have begun canceling their trips to Belize.

Following the murder of tourist Dr. GarySwank, 53, in San Pedro last week, the  Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) has reported that as of yesterday, seven properties across the country have seen tourists cancel trips scheduled for November, December and even January 2020.

John Burgos, Executive Director of the BTIA spoke with Breaking Belize News (BBN) today, explaining that he attended a public meeting in San Pedro hosted by the Commissioner of Police. Present at that meeting was also Minister of Tourism and Area Representative Manual Heredia Jr. and San Pedro  Mayor Danny Gurrero. Burgos explained that police made several commitments coming out of the meeting including adding 12 more constables for San Pedro, installing video cameras for 24-hour surveillance, obtaining Coast Guard support for boat patrols on lagoon and deep sea, drafting new legislation to keep the identity of witnesses protected, which will come after a meeting between the ComPol and the Prime Minister, and implementing new strategies to deal with gangs among others.

Burgos stressed that getting the situation under control is important to the economic wellbeing of the tourism sector so the BTIA will be following up with the relevant authorities on those commitments.

Police say that Swank was killed because he was a witness to the murder of tour guide Mario Graniel. Swank is not the first tourist to be killed in Belize, however his death occurred while on a fly fishing trip at a popular tourist attraction in Belize. The incident could have far-reaching implications on the tourism sector, which when taken in the larger context of the services sector, helps account for over 50 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.


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