Small Step- Big Leaps

Small Step- Big Leaps

New York City (NYC) and the John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport are two iconic US destination and hub. NYC and JFK are central in many respects. They are the Statue of Liberty and the NY Stock Exchange, they are fashion and the World Trade Centre, they are skyscrapers in a “concrete jungle”, they are the Empire State Building and Times Square, Broadway and Central Park, and on December 6th NYC and JFK became intertwined with Belize. The Big Apple is approximately 2,000 miles away from the Jewel but thanks to JetBlue Airline’s direct flight from the JFK, that distance has been reduced to a journey that is less than five-hours away. Can someone say “that’s a New York minute?” This new route marks the first non-stop service from the JFK to Belize and the eleventh US city to offer direct flights to the Philip Goldson International Airport (PGIA). In his remarks at the inauguration of this tremendous win for Belize’s tourism, the Honourable Minister Anthony Mahler reminded everyone that “airlift is the lifeblood” of the industry. The inaugural flight from JFK was that much more special since it was flown by Belizean Pilot, Jason Smith.

Jason Smith is as Belizean home-grown as stew chicken and rice and beans. He was born and raised in Punta Gorda Town and piloted flight 2781 on Airbus 8320 for JetBlue Airline on December 6, 2023. We are not saying that Belizeans will flock to this new route because it was flown by a Belizean, but that fact does add some nice poetry to it. What we can say, as Minister Mahler had stated, is that “many Belizeans in the Diaspora will use this flight”.  JetBlue is the sixth largest airline in the US and was founded in 1998 with its headquarters in the Long Island neighbourhood in NYC. Her Excellency Michelle Kwan, US Ambassador to Belize, attended the special ceremony for flight 2781 and as she put it “Americans can spend their mornings in Queens and afternoons in Belize.” They can wake up in The Bronx and go to sleep in Belmopan, have their coffee in Manhattan and a glass of wine in Placencia, or start the day in Staten Island and end it in San Pedro – you get the picture. JetBlue’s new direct route leaves NYC’s famous skyline for Belize’s enchanted landscape three times every week. Getting to Belize is becoming easier and easier. But air travel is not the only mode of travel to see improvements. Turning from the blue skies to the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, efforts within the cruise tourism sector gives even more reason to congratulate our expanding tourism industry and devoted stakeholders.

A day after JetBlue’s inaugural flight to Belize, the Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations and the Belize Tourism Board hosted special guests and stakeholders at the official launch for the revised National Cruise Tourism Policy 2023. The revisions started in 2021 and they were completed in-house by local stakeholders with no outside consultants. This method of policy-building took more time but it ensured holistic participation from within the Belize cruise tourism family. The direct flight from NYC and the revised cruise policy are not the only things ground-breaking this week. Sea Charters Limited is the main tender operator responsible for getting all of our cruise visitors to mainland Belize City. On the 13th of December they launched their new 600-seater vessel which is the largest boat ever built in Belize. This boat will allow Belize to ferry our cruise passengers with more comfort so that they can enjoy the wonders of the Belize experience.

In just one week we have a Belizean piloting flight 2781 directly from NYC to Belize, a cruise tourism policy that was masterfully revised by Belizeans, and the largest boat built in country by Belizean hands. These are small steps for world travel, three giant leaps for travel to Belize.

Chat again later.

Jasmine Anderson

For the Belize Tourism Board