Message from the President October 2022
Dear BTIA Members and Supporters:
I am happy to report that most indicators point to a full recovery for the overnight sector of Belize’s tourism industry for the 2022/23 winter season. The rebound is in line with the general trend in the Caribbean and has been significantly more robust than was predicted when the Covid-19 pandemic was at its height.
While the recovery is great news there are still a few question marks clouding the future.
The first involves airlift. While much work has been done on attracting new airline service to Belize we are still lacking bankable commitments on a direct flight from Europe, major service from Mexico and a reliable connection to South America. There has also been some erosion of existing service with Frontier pulling out of its weekly flights and Southwest failing to restore the Ft. Lauderdale route. Yes, Southwest is picking up some slack out of Denver and Alaska is holding its own from Seattle and L.A. but we are not seeing a lot of enthusiasm on the part of the airlines for pioneering new connections.
Note this is not because of anything that Belize has or has not done; it is largely a product of the severe dysfunction of the global airline industry following the pandemic that has resulted in shortages of pilots, flight attendants and ground crews. One result is that with fewer flights and more passengers crammed onto each flight the airlines will be able to charge higher than normal prices. This is not just a Belize phenomenon so our competitive situation may not be affected, but it may suppress arrivals of some of our more budget-minded visitors.
The other question mark involves the future of the Belize brand. Specifically, with the possibility of three major cruise ports in the Belize District and the resulting onslaught of low value visitors to our shores can Belize retain its unique selling proposition as a truly authentic nature-based destination? The Belize Government and Tourism Ministry have been wishy-washy at best on the subject and seem to be hoping that the situation will resolve itself.
And to be fair, we at BTIA have not been much better. Personally my attitude toward the cruise industry is well known from previous battles dating back over a decade. My primary beef is not environmental—although the environmental case is a strong one—but is based more on economics: that the cruise lines are ruthless business people, corruptors of all they touch, who leave nothing but chump change in the pockets of Belize and Belizeans.
But mine is just one voice and as an umbrella organization that represents hundreds of hotels, restaurants, tour operators, tour guides and related businesses, BTIA must hear from all parts of our membership. Coming to consensus may not be easy—or even possible– but we have a duty to our industry and country to use our collective wisdom to weigh in on this crucial issue. Over the next several weeks I will be reaching out to our leading minds for guidance and would like to hear from anyone in our industry who cares to weigh in. Feel free to contact me at [email protected] to get the conversation going.