Trade industry group Belize Tourism Industry Association is demanding less restrictive treatment for tourists visiting Belize according to a letter addressed to government 21 September 2020.
The pressure being put on the government is against the safety protocols enacted for the reopening of the Belize International Airport for the winter tourism season.
In its letter the BTIA asks: Do We Need a New Strategy to Deal with the New Facts on the Ground? With The Key Question Being: Whom Are We Trying To Protect? This begs the following related questions:
With the state of Belize’s daily new infection rate is there more of a danger from international tourists infecting Belizeans or Belizeans infecting tourists? If Belizeans are at least as likely as tourists to be infected with COVID-19 why are we testing every visitor but leaving the vast majority of Belizeans untested? By insisting on a complex set of protocols to even get into the country might we be needlessly discouraging most tourists from even trying to visit Belize?
By keeping tourists who do run the airport gauntlet as virtual prisoners in their Gold Standard hotels are we really providing them with the type of vacation experience commensurate with Belize’s enviable and hard earned brand? Why is it that Belizean hotel guests staying at the same Gold Standard hotels as foreign tourists are allowed to come and go as they please,travel countrywide unsupervised and socialize with anyone of their choosing while the visitors are confined to their hotels? Who benefits from this policy?
The BTIA letter signed by president Melanie Paz, then offers its solutions: We therefore offer the following related recommendations for consideration by the National Oversight Committee.
The arrival process at the PGIA should be simplified: If a visitor arrives with a negative test they are processed through immigration just like normal or given a rapid test upon arrivalwith result given on-the-spot or sent to the visitor or hotel. Is there really a need for pre-arrival communication or downloading of an app?
Allow international visitors who are confirmed to be COVID-free full freedom of movement around the country but require them to abide by the same COVID-19 health and safety protocols (and,if applicable, quarantine protocols) that Belizeans are mandated to follow.
Require that all tourism services providers (hotels,tour operators.restaurants,car rental, transportation companies and guides) meet the requirements for gold standard certification in order to operate freely.
Implement a major campaign to enforce existing mask wearing and social distance rules for ALL people in country. No discrimination – locals and tourists alike.
We are basing these recommendations – and others that may emerge from industry discussions on the principle that whenever one pursues a specific strategy In any endeavor it is always a good idea to regularly re-examine that strategy to see if it remains valid.
John Burgos – Executive Director, BTIA:
“When these protocols, strategies, and standards were developed, they were developed in June-July, when the COVID-19 situation in Belize was very well under control. And at the time, that is what led to what we thought would be the best approach in terms of recovering the tourism industry and creating economic activity for all tourism stakeholders. So, that’s the key thing that people need to understand. We have seen what has happened in Belize since August, and we have seen that the SI’s keep coming every other week, with new updates, new things being implemented. But, I think that they’re not being looked at the way they should. I think their views are a little bit outdated. I think we really have to look at what are we trying to achieve with those standards, and those protocols. Who are we protecting? If a tourist who doesn’t have COVID-19 comes into the country, he’s going to be exposed to COVID-19 in Belize. And he could put himself at risk just by coming to Belize. So, we’re saying that some of the arrival protocols need to be reviewed with an objective mind.”