From Hidden Gem to Tourism Star

From Hidden Gem to Tourism Star

Was Belize always destined to be a competitor in international tourism? Were we always moving toward becoming one of the best secrets known to international travelers? Better yet, if tourism were a sport, what would be our mascot? Considering every industry as our collective talent, each sector a unique ability, and our natural resources as our physical strength, we have all the attributes of a competitive tourism destination.  Looking at where our economic enterprise started in the days of the logwood cutting and mahogany shipment, it took us some time to realize our tourism potential. One might say that the development in that direction seemed pretty obvious.   Once the agricultural sector, with sugar cane, banana, and citrus, became our superpower and backbone for our economic development, it was only a matter of time before Belize discovered other things about itself. Increasing our national economic prowess by expanding the agricultural industry to include marine products, fruits, grains and legumes, vegetables, and livestock placed us on the right path. By the time we got to manufacturing, producing food, and beverages, and improving our infrastructure, it was only a matter of time before people would come.  Every local industry and sector is an arm, a tentacle, and a muscle for our tourism industry. Combine those with our rivers, archaeological sites, culture, barrier reef, the Great Blue Hole, the birds, the air, the sand on the beaches, waterfalls, the rainforest, and just about everything, it’s easy to see that tourism may always have been in the cards for us.  The surprise is that we are not just participating in this sport, we are competing.

Since this year started, every single month has seen an increase in tourist arrivals compared to the same time in 2023. For example, overnight visitor arrivals for May 2024 were a 37.9 percent increase over May 2023. It may not be the biggest number on the chart but if you know statistics like you know sports, that’s a win. Out of the 21 destinations listed in the Caribbean region, Belize’s percentage change in overnight visitor arrival is up 27.4% from last year after Montserrat and Curacao respectively. To date, our tourism recovery is 115% compared to 2019 figures.

But, back to our mascot. Considering that we are a small competitor making big moves, what would our tourism athletic, animal spirit be? It would have to be colorful, friendly, original, and really, really unique looking. Was a strong tourism industry always in our destiny? Who knows. What is certain is that the development of every other industry contributed to how we got here and continues to play a major role in how we deal with the competition.

Chat again later.

Jasmine Anderson

For the Belize Tourism Board