If you look online, there are countless articles that detail how great the travel industry in Belize is doing. And unfortunately, a lot of people believe it. For example, see Travel Pulse’s post: Tourism in Belize is booming and has the numbers to prove it or the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Tourism Arrivals on the Rise in Belize. Honestly, what rubbish. I do not know if I was skeptical about those headlines because my cynicism increased due to grad school or because the Belize government keeps underinvesting in tourism development. So I set forth to see how well tourism is actually doing in all of Belize and in short, the results show that there are winners, losers, and huge losers.
Analysis of visitor data
As you can see in the table provided above, an analysis of the visitor percentage change from 2006 to 2014 shows that the leading tourism destination within Belize is Ambergris Caye with 76%. That basically suggests that Ambergris Caye is by far the greatest winner when it comes to an increase of tourism visitors, and in layman terms, that means that Ambergris Caye is making all the money. Dangriga/ Stann Creek comes in second with 62%, which I presume is primarily due to the increase of popularity of Hopkins. The destination: other islands is third, which is probably locations such as Tobacco Caye and South Water Caye (to name two). After that, Placencia follows with a 21% increase, and to end the top five, Toledo/ Punta Gorda has a 9% visitor growth.
Now to get to the biggest losers, Northern Belize experienced the most drastic decrease of visitors with Orange Walk unfortunately obtaining a -28% dip, followed by Corozal with -26%. San Ignacio/ Cayo follows with -16% and then the Belize District with -15%. Belmopan is the least visited destination with -11%.
Now what does the above analysis suggest?
If you still have not figured it out for yourself…basically, the above suggests that for the past decade, places such as Ambergris Caye and the coastal regions of Southern Belize have received a lot more tourist dollars than Western and Northern Belize. The implications of this may not seem like a huge issue, however, a lot more Belizeans are currently reliant on the tourism industry than 10 years ago.
What irritates me the most is that with the growth of the tourism industry, and countless new hotels and tours operators adding to the tax coffers of the government, the Belize Tourism Board continues to do a lousy job at promoting the entire country. Someone needs to tell them that Belize is more than island and beach activities. A clear recommendation is that they need to tap into new markets and showcase all that Belize has to offer. However, tourism associations and town councils of places such as Orange Walk and San Ignacio also need to take matters into their own hands and promote their locations since waiting around for the BTB to do it is definitely not working. Additionally, why do I need to come and do the analysis that shows how bad tourism is performing in their towns? They should have their own dedicated people doing this.
To conclude, I will end by suggesting that post-secondary institutions should be conducting research on issues like what I have stated above. I honestly do not understand why professors did not enable me to investigate issues relating to tourism in Belize when I was at Sacred Heart Junior College or Galen University.