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Tourism Industry Association asks the government to rethink its COVID-19 response

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Posted: Wednesday, September 23, 2020. 4:15 pm CST.

By BBN Staff: The Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) is calling on the Government of Belize (GOB) to rethink its strategy in handling the national COVID-19 response, in light of the changing situation with infections and the looming reopening of the Phillipp Goldson International Airport (PGIA).

The BTIA wrote a letter to the National COVID-19 Oversight Committee (NOC) this week, giving a synopsis of Belize’s unique COVID-19 situation and questioned if keeping the same methods of addressing the spread of the virus would still be effective with the way infections currently stand in Belize.

“With the state of Belize’s daily new infection rate, is there more of a danger from international tourists infecting Belizeans or Belizeans infecting tourists? If Belizeans are at least as likely as tourists to be infected with COVID-19 why are we testing every visitor but leaving the vast majority of Belizeans untested? By insisting on a complex set of protocols to even get into the country might we be needlessly discouraging most tourists from even trying to visit Belize?” the BTIA asked.

The Association also asked if severely restricting travelers’ movements would be the type of visitor experience that Belize would want to have as its brand, and who benefits from a situation where Belizeans traveling the country are free to come and go as they please while international tourists are forced to remain confined to their hotel?

To address those and many other concerns, the Association made a list of recommendations to GOB which included simplifying the arrival process at the PGIA, allowing travelers who have been found to be COVID-19 free, full freedom to roam the country; requiring all tourism service providers (I.e., hotels, tour operators, restaurants, car rental, transportation companies, and guides) meet the requirements for gold standard certification in order to operate; and implement an enforcement campaign for health and safety rules such as mask-wearing and social distancing for tourists and locals alike.

“We are basing these recommendations – and others that may emerge from industry discussions – on the principle that whenever one pursues a specific strategy in any endeavor, it is always a good idea to regularly re-examine that strategy to see if it remains valid,” the BTIA said.

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