Posted: Friday, September 29, 2023. 8:38 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Director of Tourism Evan Tillett has indicated that Belize is very near returning to its 2019 peak of tourist arrivals to the country, with other improved metrics.
According to information from the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB), there were 114 thousand overnight tourist arrivals and 183 thousand cruise ship arrivals, both increases over 2022.
Tillett told reporters on the sidelines of the Elevate Training Expo, “In terms of our numbers, we are looking to somewhere between ninety-one to ninety-five percent of where we were in 2019. From a revenue perspective, we are definitely up and that’s because we have extended the length of stay in terms of visitors; it went from six point three to now just about nine days. Obviously, the ADR (average daily rate) is up significantly, somewhere around twenty-five percent or so. So obviously, we would want to get back the numbers and we figure by 2024 we will be there and beyond 2019 numbers, which is excellent for us.” He added that it would be “ideal” if the 2024 high season restored Belize’s figures to 2019 levels.
Meanwhile, to encourage even more visitors, the Belize Tourism Board and Tourism Minister Anthony Mahler have been working on new markets in Europe, Mexico, and Central America to expand the season beyond the American winter months, the U.S. being our key source: “… there is a need for us to diversify because it can literally expand the tourism season which would be good from an economic perspective for the entire country. And so our focus, we are heavily focused on airlift, airlift development and we are also pushing marketing dollars – not only in Europe but also in Central America, Mexico, and Central America. We see potential there that can allow us to advance the tourism season.”
It also means an upgrade is in order for the port most of those visitors will come through one way or another, the Philip Goldson International Airport in Ladyville. According to Tillett, “It’s all about the visitor experience and I think in terms of the amenities and the experience at the airport it needed some improvement and I think the management group from the airport realized that and they are embarking on a huge investment plan that will span over a number of years that will see increases or improvements in the arrival lounge, departure lounge, they are rerouting the roads. They are actually putting in the plan is for them to put in jet bridgers so the experience and coming through the airport will be much better and I think there are also plans for a FOB which will allow for private aviation to thrive a little more in Belize which is important.”
The plan will cost $264 million in three phases over the next seven years, with completion in 2030. It is funded in part by an airport development fee charged to non-Belizean travelers.
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