Posted: Friday, March 26, 2021. 3:35 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: With the first quarter of 2021 coming to a close, regional and international economic experts have predicted the start of a comeback for the tourism industry, which at this time last year was shut down due to the onset of COVID-19.
After years of robust growth and development within the industry, 2020 was at a standstill. Overnight tourist arrivals heavily declined year over year and cruise ship arrivals dwindled to nothing.
When we contacted the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) for official figures on Thursday, we were told that only Minister Anthony Mahler or Board Chairman Evan Tillett could give those to us and both were out conducting destination visits. We await their reply to our queries.
However, the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB) reported at its press conference a few weeks ago that in the fourth quarter of 2020, covering October to December, some 17 thousand overnight arrivals were recorded. The Philip Goldson International Airport re-opened after fits and starts in October and no outbreak of COVID-19 was recorded as believed by some.
Experts from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and World Bank have all predicted comebacks for Belize in tourism, depending on whether the population is sufficiently vaccinated and whether developed countries like the United States, United Kingdom and others lift restrictions on travel enough to facilitate a rebound.
Under former Director of Tourism Karen Bevans and former Minister Manuel Heredia, Jr., Belize implemented a ‘safe corridor’ plan for tourists that limited contact from the Airport – still the only official port of entry into Belize – to the ‘Gold Standard’ Hotels certified by the Tourist Board as implementing COVID-19 protocols. Testing was required before arrival with refusals subject to quarantine. Restrictions have since been gradually loosened and recently it was announced that those who can show proof of vaccination prior to arrival need not be tested.
Still, Belize is not putting all its eggs in the tourism basket, seeking out the revival of other industries and creating new ones in an effort to stimulate the economy and get Belizeans working again.
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