A PACT for protection & promise

A PACT for protection & promise

Belize’s natural and cultural resources are packed with promise and protection.  Anything as precious as The Jewel should be protected in all aspects. The first layer of protection was to designate certain natural heritage as “Protected Areas”. In total, Belize has a 103 national protected areas with everything from forest reserves, marine reserves, bird sanctuaries, and archaeological reserves. Protecting these reserves and sanctuaries require plenty of resources and financing. This is where the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT) comes in. When policymakers saw the promise in Belize’s eco-tourism, they quickly realized that conserving all that natural ecology would require some innovative funding.  The PACT Act was passed in 1996, since then it has acted as a statutory organization tasked with a legal mandate to help manage, protect and conserve Belize’s National Protected Areas Systems (NPAS).  This Act established Belize as a pioneer in protected areas conservation. For nearly three decades now Belize’s natural and cultural resources have been in a healthy long-term relationship with PACT. The relationship is symbiotic since it promises biodiversity protection, financial sustainability, and socio-economic benefits. What more can any of Belize’s 103 pristine protected areas ask for?

Well, for one, they could ask for more resources. Belize’s pristine protected areas need financing to develop and manage tourism-based activities. Many of the facilities, amenities, and services at these sites are lacking and management’s ability to ensure hospitality and customer service is strained. This is where the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) comes in. On March 8th, the BTB and PACT signed a landmark Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to conjointly finance the improvement of access, facilities, assets, equipment, and the overall product development of protected areas.  Both entities have committed equal parts of a BZ$2.5 million investment over a period of three years.  The main objective of the MOU is to help close existing financing gaps in the management of the NPAS. Global visitor trends show an uptick in tourism products that are nature-based and experiential so it is important that these sites offer a high quality tourism experience. As the CEO of the Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations, Mrs. Nicole Solano described the MOU, “it exemplifies the dedication to fostering innovative finance solutions that harmonize conservation efforts with the socioeconomic potential of the tourism sector.”

Secondly, these protected areas may request more awareness and education around sustainable development. Belize’s tourism product cannot grow if our natural and cultural resources are inaccessible. Development is necessary but it must be centred on the long-term care of the environment. The PACT Act and its mandate for a conservation investment strategy was literally born out of an increase in eco- tourism; therefore, tourism goes hand-in-hand with that mandate. In many ways, PACT is to Belize’s protected Areas what the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) is to tourism industry stakeholders. Both share a corporate vision that ensures benefits and enjoyment for all Belizeans, they are statutory bodies empowered by the government to promote specific segments of our economy, and they both have core policies that are focused on protecting Belize’s natural and cultural treasures.  Sustainable tourism development requires partnerships. The BTB partnership reflects Belize’s continued dedication to develop our eco-tourism while protecting Belize’s precious ecology. Much of Belize’s pioneering work on conservation and sustainability will be on full display when we host the 2024 World Travel Sustainability and Hospitality Awards this September. The alliance is symbolic of the connection between conservation and development, as well as tourism and the environment.  

Chat again later.

Jasmine Anderson
For the Belize Tourism Board