While the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) reports continued growth in the tourism industry, tour operators, hotel and restaurant owners, particularly in inland tourist destinations, are recording declines in their level of business.
According to arrival data from the BTB, tourism overnight, cruise, and airport tourist arrivals have all increased in 2016, when compared to 2015. The data showed that in 2016, cruise passenger arrivals increased by some 47, 359, from 957,975 to 1,005,394.
The BTB described 2016 as the most successful year for cruise tourism. Similarly, overnight arrivals went up from 371, 070, to 385, 583, and airport arrivals went up from 255,923, to 298,157 visitors.
Despite the increases, the tourism industry’s key performance indicators, showed that hotel occupancy for the majority of the country was down between 2015-2016, though there was an increase in availability of hotel rooms.
In the Belize District, occupancy fell from 47.7% to 44.5%, a decline of 3.2 %.
Stann Creek recorded the highest decline of 21.8% (falling from 55.5% to 33.7%) in occupancy; and Placencia had the lowest decline, 1.7% (falling from 33.1% to 31.30%. Corozal and the “Other Islands” category, are the only areas that recorded an increase.
The Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA), said that it has been getting increasing concerns from its membership since 2015, particularly in the Cayo District about the declines.
“The BTIA has received various concerns about the high traffic of Guatemalan buses and tour operators coming into Belize and offering tours completely bypassing, the service providers in the Cayo area, more specifically tour operators, hotels and restaurants.”
Tourism stakeholders in western Belize have been requesting that the government disclose its policy referencing the presence of transport and tour companies from Guatemala and Mexico coming into the country.