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Tourism Minister Anthony Mahler: “We have to win small battles first to win war on poverty” – tourism leads the way

Posted: Thursday, March 23, 2023. 5:33 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Pickstock area representative Anthony Mahler pointed out that despite the Opposition United Democratic Party’s advantages in representation in its 13 years in Government, especially on Belize City’s Southside, there was no advancement.

In contrast, the current administration has piloted free education, an increase in the minimum wage and decreased unemployment and increased economic growth; these are examples of his thesis with regard to poverty alleviation explained thus: “To win the war against poverty, we have to win small battles first. We are not a big economy with an abundance of resources to invest; so, we have to win small battles first in order to win the [larger] battle against poverty.”

Mahler described a well-planned Budget as the most important tool in securing economic stability and promoting the country’s dreams. This Government, he said, takes the process seriously and takes its accountability to the people seriously, and it is well aware that there is more work to be done and not enough to spend, especially in the wake of the COVID pandemic and its related economic troubles.

As for his own Ministry, Mahler proudly stated that the tourism “turbo engine” and the Diaspora contribute close to $1.5 billion to the national economy – “the engine di purr and we di click pan all cylinders right now,” as he put it.

Yes, tourism is back, and nearly back to its best. Of the 900 million people who traveled internationally in 2022 – a 63 percent recovery from pre-COVID figures – more than 370 thousand passed through Belize overnight, a 75 percent recovery despite not all borders being reopened and a late wave of the Omicron COVID pandemic, and another 612 thousand coming by cruise ships, with early numbers for 2023 looking even better. Worldwide, another 33 percent recovery is expected in arrivals.

The industry has more than two thousand licensed tour guides, more than 885 hotels, and more than 350 tour operators. Tourists on average are staying three more days in 2022, nine days total compared to six in 2019, and that means that they contribute more, boosting direct, indirect, and induced tourist growth. Mahler attributes this to the “smart and hard work” of all those involved from the top to the bottom over the last two years.

The airlines are returning and Belize is seeking new routes with a planned conference in late April, while Belize flag carriers Maya Island and Tropic Air are activating new routes in the region.

The Philip Goldson International Airport (PGIA) is overdue for an upgrade, which would include space for private aircraft. On the seas, more than 900,000 – twice Belize’s population, are expected to visit our shores, and a cruise policy is being finalized, though no mention was made of where we are in the ‘Great Cruise Port War’ between Port of Belize/Waterloo, Magical Belize/Portico, and Stake Bank.

Mahler acknowledged the work of fellow Ministries in supporting tourist destinations, including the soon-to-be-completed Placencia Polyclinic and water systems there and in Caye Caulker, as well as roads to various attractions.

 

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