Monday, June 1, 2009


Online photos of some of Belize Tourist Board staff.


The BTB announced some statistics that ranged around a drop in tourism of 10 % to 11 % officially. They also said that the parts of the tourism industry package hurting the most, were the small hotels and lodges and hostels, catering to the USA middle class and student class lower level of spenders in the overnight tourist market statistics. According to the BTB the expensive places did okay with their better marketing programs catering to the more wealthy tourist packages. The statistics were not broken down by the districts of Belize, so we cannot judge particularly any trends from what they announced, for more specific geographic areas within Belize.

The conclusions of the Belize Tourist Board were that the RECESSION in the USA were hitting the lower classes and middle classes worse than the upper classes, like administrative type bureaucratic civil service types on solid huge salaries. Or the more successful entrepreneurs and business owners in the USA. This carry over effect was the result of the drop in tourism in Belize, they said at BTB.

While there is some truth to this conjecture, and certainly the CARIBBEAN islands bear out this idea and perhaps the big drop in Mexico bus tourism explorers. It is not true of our neighbor GUATEMALA, nor is it true of those places located on prime locations with some sort of ambience like beaches here in Belize.

Our conclusions differ from the BTB, in that we are not competitive with Guatemalan tourism infra-structure. The most glaring differences are in internal transportation, particularly PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION by bus and alternative type tour vans, tuk tuk motorcycle taxis and regular bus routes, which in Guatemala mostly run to PULLMAN and EXPRESS type air conditioned buses with comfort to rival anything in the USA or Canada. In many cases the Guatemalan public transportation services are SUPERIOR to that of the USA and CANADA. Yet the costs are excellent.

If we compare our middle class and low budget overnight visitor tourism sector in Belize, it can be seen that TRANSPORTATION is the single biggest factor that is hurting our low budget exploring tourist visitors wanting to see our country.

For instance today, my wife and I went across the Western Guatemalan border. There is no bus service between the end of the line in Benque Viejo Town and the border immigration point. A distance of roughly 2 to 2.5 miles. In the hot sun this was horrendous and coming back we were carrying things we had bought at the market across the border, not available in Belize. One has to wonder what the situation is around Punta Gorda, Placentia and other places?

In earlier articles we have covered encouraging the mini-van style of COLLECTIVO in Guatemala, that has a seat for everyone, as being an introduction and need in Belize. We also need the bigger better quality buses for EXPRESS routings inside the country. The job of this changeover is the CABINET policy makers; in particular, that of the Transportation Minister, Melvin Hulse. However, it would seem in shortage of CABINET POLICY on this matter, of improving our tourism public bus transportation product, to make Belize an easier destination to explore for the overnight wandering type tourism, we are not getting any leadership from this UDP CABINET. We don’t know why? They have been in office long enough. Maybe they need to do some touring in Guatemala and get some ideas? Compare experiences. El Retiro Hostel in remote Lanquin continues to be sold out to overnight low budget tourists, as do Panachjel, Lake Atitlan, Tikal and Antigua. If there is a drop in this sector of our tourism product, it behooves our CABINET policy makers to put their heads together and see how they can use the license and permit process and regulations to improve what we have. We pay our taxes for their salaries, for them to do this and it is disappointing that they are not leading us to greater things. Melvin Hulse seems out of touch entirely? Give him a backpack and $300 and send him to tour Guatemala by public transportation and see what he experiences?

CERTAINLY the high prices of airline tickets, the inability to buy tickets at discount prices within Belize for some regulatory reason, and the lack of encouragement and policy, or tax breaks to bring in the charter airlines is another important factor in our drop in tourism. What is obvious, is that the BTB blame on the RECESSION in the USA is not the sole reason, nor even apparently according to Guatemala any reason at all. Those that will travel, will still travel. Nope! It has to be our conditions inside of Belize. The question that beggars to be answered is; what is our problem and how can we correct it? Will the UDP come up with something before the July and August short HIGH SEASON? Certainly, we hope they change our local situation for the better before the start of next FALL and WINTER HIGH TOURIST SEASON. The UDP government need to treat our TOURISM PRODUCT like a business and facilitate our customers. From this they can perhaps rescue our drop in TOURISM GOVERNMENT REVENUES?

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