The BTIA a broad-based tourism umbrella organization that seeks to bring together tourism related interests to meet the challenges of a dynamic and growing tourism industry in Belize.

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Travel Talk – Issue No. 10

JetBlue To Start New Nonstop Flights to Belize from New York’s JFK Airport
JetBlue To Start New Nonstop Flights to Belize from New York’s JFK Airport
President Remarks
BTIA Board Meets with Minister of Tourism and Diaspora Relations
BTIA Board Meets with Minister of Tourism and Diaspora Relations
BTIA Represents the Tourism Private Sector in Belize at CATA Meeting
BTIA Represents the Tourism Private Sector in Belize at CATA Meeting
BTIA Re-engages with Stakeholders in the West
BTIA Re-engages with Stakeholders in the West
Corozal BTIA Hosts Annual General Meeting
Corozal BTIA Hosts Annual General Meeting
Get Ready for the Belize Birding Festival 2023
All Road led to Toledo for the Chocolate Festival
All Road led to Toledo for the Chocolate Festival


On June 6th the Belize Tourism Board announced a new partnership with JetBlue Airlines, New York’s Hometown Airline, with the first-ever nonstop service between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Belize’s Phillip S.W. Goldson International Airport. JetBlue will operate year-round roundtrip flights three times a week – Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays – with the inaugural flight scheduled for Dec. 6, 2023.

“We’re thrilled to announce the new partnership between Belize and JetBlue and can’t wait to welcome JetBlue’s first-ever flight to our country in December,” said Hon. Anthony Mahler, Belize’s Minister of Tourism and Diaspora Relations. “This is a huge win for our ongoing efforts to make Belize accessible to more U.S. visitors, with JFK being one of the biggest air travel hubs for tens of millions of travelers. We’re excited for JetBlue to join the family of airline partners offering nonstop flight options to Belize and we invite everyone to visit and discover the beauty of this enchanting country and all that it has to offer.”

“JetBlue is committed to delivering exceptional travel experiences to our customers and our expansion to Belize reflects our dedication to connecting customers to the most popular and unique destinations,” said David Jehn, Vice President of Network Planning and Partnerships, JetBlue. “We look forward to not only introducing our low fares and great service to Belize customers but also providing access to all the cities we serve from New York.”

Belize is quickly becoming a popular destination for American travelers. As of April 2023, more than 68% of all overnight arrivals to the destination came from the United States. This is expected to increase thanks to the new direct flight service and represents a very optimistic outlook for the dynamic growth of the Belizean tourism industry.


President Remarks

Our BTIA has a long and complicated relationship with cruise tourism. As an umbrella organization BTIA has always included the cruise sector both at the board of directors level and in our general membership. But since the bulk of tourism employment, investment, revenue and profit is overwhelmingly concentrated in the overnight sector we have focused our efforts on the growth and sustainable management of overnight tourism. In some cases BTIA has actually fought against specific cruise port projects where we believed such developments were not in the best interests of the industry or the nation in general.

Today the situation in the cruise industry is more confused than ever with the Port Magical project south of Belize City mired in bipartisan scandal, the Port of Belize project seeming to rise from the dead now that Government re-purchased the operation and Stake Bank (aka Port Coral), first out of the gate, three-quarters built and out of cash, thrown into receivership amid allegations of fraud, incompetence and questionable banking practices.

What are we to do?

My first reaction, as someone historically opposed to cruise tourism in Belize, is to rub my hands in delight as I watch the future of this less-than-vital segment of our industry drown before our eyes in a sea of greed, indecision and failed policies.

But that would be irresponsible. The fact is that cruise tourism can be a viable part of our tourism product particularly for Belize City and surrounding areas traditionally left out of the overnight tourism loop. The question is and always has been: What do we want cruise tourism to look like, today, tomorrow and 20 years from now?

The answer certainly does not lie in numbers. Government’s cruise tourism plan calls for an increase in annual cruise visitor arrivals from the present one million to 2.5 million over the next ten years, an increase of 150%. At the same time we are promoting Belize as the ultimate green destination, a bastion of environmental stewardship and beacon of sustainability. The fact is we can’t have it both ways.

Common sense tells us that if we are going to have a cruise product it should be complementary to the much larger overnight sector: small, unique, interesting, authentic. What does that look like? For my money it looks like Stake Bank—a modest but well done facility offshore from Belize City that will eventually handle perhaps under a million annual visitors (along with a half million at Harvest Caye in the South) and give them a reasonable introduction to the wonders of Belize without destroying them.

Depending on whom you ask over a hundred million US dollars has already been poured into that unfortunate island that has had more cosmetic surgery than all the Real Housewives of Atlanta combined. The project needs to be completed–and fast. A buyer or buyers need to be found before the existing infrastructure begins to deteriorate—even if the lenders take a huge haircut. If this project is not saved the real loser will be Belize and the only winners will be the lawyers.



The Board of Directors of the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) was pleased to meet with the Hon. Anthony Mahler, Minister of Tourism and Diaspora Relations, along with his team. The main objective of the meeting was to discuss important updates in the tourism industry.

One such update was the industry’s performance in the first four months of the year and the outlook for the upcoming summer months. While the tourism recovery has been positive, the Minister emphasized the importance of continued collaboration to ensure ongoing success. The Minister also announced that he will be scheduling a tour shortly so that he can meet members in destinations across the country. BTIA chapters will certainly welcome this opportunity for our members to be able to have in-person discussions with the Minister.

During the meeting the BTIA Board had the opportunity to highlight several of the needs of the industry, including more investment in infrastructure, training and skills development, more consultation between government and the private sector, and increased marketing efforts to attract more visitors.


In late April, BTIA’s President, Stewart Krohn and Executive Director, Linette Canto attended the Central America Tourism Agency (CATA) Executive Committee Meeting where they represented Belize’s tourism private sector.  Representatives from several Central American countries and the Dominican Republic joined the meeting in person and virtually.

Belize’s Minister of Tourism and Diaspora Relations, Hon. Anthony Mahler held the Pro Tempore Presidency and hosted the CXXV Ordinary Meeting of the Central American Tourism Council and the LXIX Meeting of the Central American Tourism Agency Board of Directors. The event was hosted at the Naia Resort and Spa in Placencia on April 26 & 27, 2023.

Belize remains committed to focusing on the goals of the regional tourism agenda established in the Strategic Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development. These include tourism policy & integration, marketing & promotion, quality & competitiveness and institutional strengthening.


The BTIA was pleased to host a meeting in the Cayo District for members and prospective members.

For the past couple of years, both the Cayo and Belmopan Chapters have not been as active as they could be due to various challenges. This meeting served as the first step towards re-kindling the relationship with past members and connecting with potential members.

Our goal is to merge both chapters into one vibrant chapter, with an active and engaged board in place to ensure that BTIA has a strong presence in the Cayo District, which is a key tourism destination.

The meeting, which was held on Thursday, May 25th, 2023 at the Cahal Pech Village Resort’s Conference Room, was informative and very interactive.

The BTIA thanks all those who attended, engaged with us, and shared their perspective on the future of tourism in the destination.


The Corozal BTIA Chapter hosted its Annual General Meeting at the El Comal Restaurant in Corozal Town on Tuesday, May 30th. The event was very well attended, and the activities included a presentation by BTIA’s Executive Director, Linette Canto, an address by BTIA Corozal’s Chairman Efren Perez, the launch of the save the date for the Santa Rita Reenactment Wedding Event 2023 and the launch of the Corozal promotional video series. The highlight of the meeting was the election of the 2023 Board of Directors, as follows:

Chair: Efren Perez

Vice Chair: Lisbet Cabral

Treasurer: Karina Ake

Secretary: Maria Gutierrez

Director: Dioni Marin

Ecological Corridor Representative: Joel Verde

Cultural Corridor Representative: Adela Pederson

This dynamic team is committed to working diligently to promote, advocate for and represent the best interests of its members and the Corozal community.


The Belize Birding Festival Committee has reconvened with the intent of relaunching the festival in October 2023, after a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Two very successful festivals were held previously in Belmopan and San Ignacio with more than 200 persons attending each event.

The Belize Birding Festival provides an exciting opportunity for local and international birders to enjoy the spectacular beauty of Belize. Belize is a bird lover’s paradise with almost 600 resident and migratory birds that attract thousands of visitors each year. So, whether you’re a beginner or an avid birder, this event will allow you to immerse yourself in this growing market.

The festival will be held on Saturday, October 7th in Belize City and activities will include birding tours, exhibitor booths, workshops and presentations, networking opportunities, a cocktail, raffles, sale of merchandise, and much, much more

The Belize Tourism Industry Association, the Belize Audubon Society, the Belize Hotel Association, the Belize Tourism Board, and a couple of Belize’s esteemed birders comprise the organizing committee of the Belize Birding Festival. The committee members are all excited about the festival’s potential impact on tourism in Belize and are working hard to ensure that this event will be bigger and better than ever.


The BTIA Toledo Chapter in collaboration with the Toledo Cacao Growers Association (TCGA) held its 15th Anniversary Chocolate Festival of Belize on May 19 and May 20, 2023. The four-event festival, which highlighted the birthplace of cacao while celebrating cacao farmers and chocolatiers, had an estimated turnout of over 400 people at each event.

The Official Cacao Pod Breaking Ceremony & Cacao Symposium was held on May 19. The key topics at the symposium included climate change impacts on small cacao producers in Belize and increased participation of Belizean cacao in the global value chain. Later that evening the Chocolate Gala was held at the exceptional Copal Tree Lodge venue offering brilliant musical entertainment, delicious appetizers, wines & spirits, dancing, and exclusive access to the chocolatiers of Belize who showcased their craft and offered delicious tastings of their products.

The following day, on Saturday, May 20th the Cacao & Culture event took place in beautiful Santa Cruz Village at the Uxbenka archeological site. This was a green event to promote cultural preservation and strengthen community-based tourism. The program included remarks from Her Excellency Dame Froyla Tzalam, Hon. Oscar Requena, Hon. Anthony Mahler, Dr. Amy Thompson and other special guests. The Santa Cruz community offered performances of the acclaimed deer dance which is a traditional cultural dance. In addition, they shared several local food dishes as well as artisan crafts, chocolate products and village tours.

The final event, Celebrate Chocolate, took place at the George Price Welcome Plaza in Punta Gorda Town with a family friendly, plaza-style festival featuring local artisans, food, beverages, activities for children and musical entertainment.

The BTIA would like to take this opportunity to thank dignitaries, sponsors, chocolatiers, volunteers, vendors, publishers, influencers, travel writers, and all other persons and businesses who contributed to the success of the Chocolate Festival.

See you in 2024!


The BTIA is working diligently to make 2023 the best year ever for Belizean tourism.

On this premise, we appeal to our esteemed members for your continued support.

Please feel free to contact us via phone at 227-1144 or email at [email protected] for more information on membership application/renewal.