By Michelle Sutherland
While commuters and residents of Caye Caulker and San Pedro continue to be burdened by the recent increase in water taxi fares, tourism officials are projecting that the move will also be having a larger impact on the tourism-friendly destinations, which remains a major attraction for travelers.
CEO in the Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations Nicole Solano, told the Reporter this week, “Well for sure the island destinations are the most popular destination for tourists. ... Snorkeling and water activities are the number one type of activities that tourists like to engage in when in Belize. So yes there will definitely be an impact. The price of fuel is something that is impacting the travel industry globally and so Belize will not escape that.''
In fact, Solano said that they are expecting the cost of airfares, taxi fares, bus, and tour transportation, to increase. This is something that Solano said that travelers, as well as those in the travel industry, are also aware of. But while there are budget-conscious tourists who are still determined to travel, Solano said that even their level of movement is expected to decrease.
When we asked Solano about the status of Belize's rebounding tourism industry, she told us that the industry is bouncing back faster than was expected. In fact, according to Solano, it is taking the lead among several other competing destinations and is already between 80-90 % of its pre-COVID numbers. Solano said that the ministry is also projecting the cruise tourism industry to return to pre-COVID numbers by the end of this year.
Solano said that she believes that the Ministry's role and partnership with the Ministry of Health during the pandemic—which saw the early and calculated removal of travel and health restrictions—were instrumental in accelerating the revival of the tourism industry in Belize ahead of its competitors.
“We worked very closely with the Ministry of Health in an effort to relax those measures so that people could come to Belize. So it was easier to travel to Belize than it was to many other destinations. Some countries actually remained closed or had a lot of restrictions in order to enter,” explained Solano.
She also attributed Belize's size and lack of mass tourism as well as its open space, nature, and wellness tours that were all conducive to the type of travel that travelers were looking for during the pandemic.
But while Solano said that the private sector is indicating that things are finally looking up for them and that the high season and even the summer months have been doing exceptionally well she said that the ministry remains cautious due to several factors. These include the fluctuating infection rate in the country, as well as the arrival of the hurricane season, which combined makes for very uncertain times. However, Solano says that the ministry, as well as its partners, continue to do the best that they can for the industry.