Belize is preparing to welcome foreign tourists back to a country that reports it has fared far better than most in coping with the coronavirus pandemic that has proven hugely disruptive to international travel.
Belize Hotel Association president Ted Tejada told a Friday Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association webinar that the country’s international airport will reopen Aug. 15, with United Airlines restarting Belize City service that day, while American Airlines will return Aug. 18 and Delta Airlines Sept. 3.
At one point, all 920 Belize hotels were closed because of the pandemic, with Tejada saying Belizean tourism has “suffered tremendously,” even though the country had only seen 47 coronavirus cases in a nation of 450,000 people as of Friday. Officials say the relatively small number of cases is a result of “stringent” safety protocols the government implemented.
About 100 hotels are now open, relying on local tourists.
Belize officials have been working on safety protocols that will be in place when foreign visitors begin arriving, with airport markers guiding people on social distancing and authorities insisting that airport users wear masks. Baggage will be scanned and sanitized and arriving foreign visitors will have to demonstrate that they’ve been tested for coronavirus within the previous 72 hours. Those who don’t have that documentation will be tested at the airport at their own expense. If they test positive they will be directed to a hotel for a mandatory quarantine.
Tourism officials are calling on would-be visitors to buy travel insurance before arriving.
The government is approving hotels for foreign visitors in what Misty Michael of the Belize Tourism Board describes as a “tourism-safe corridor,” with those hotels able to begin accepting foreign tourists as of mid-August. Michael said visitors wanting to leave their hotel grounds on excursions will only be able to do so with a recognized tour operator.
But Michael added those hotels will have the likes of bars, restaurants, entertainment and activities to “keep the guests active.”
The corridor will also feature government-approved transportation for tourists.
Tourism officials are promising “great” hotel rates, with Tejada adding visitors will find their booked hotels will have a “very flexible cancellation policy.”
Michael said there remains “a lot of interest” in travel to Belize and investment in the country is continuing. A Marriott that was slated to open in December will now open in January.
Meanwhile, CHTA CEO president Frank Comito, who’s visited Belize, cited the likes of tropical islands and archeological sites when he declared that “the lure of Belize…is intoxicating.”