Belize’s borders remain closed with no definitive re-opening date planned. For the past few weeks, repatriations – for Belizean citizens either “stuck” on cruise ships or stranded outside of the country – have started.
When it Comes to Covid Infections, Belize has Been Particularly Blessed
After over 50 days without a CoVid-19 case in Belize, a person from one of the ships was diagnosed with the virus on Friday, June 5th. Yesterday it was announced this morning that the case has been contained.
In total that makes 19 positive cases and 2 deaths – since the end of March.
But The Economic Situation In Belize Is Deteriorating
Repatriation flights – from Belize to the US and from Belize to Canada – have been heading in the other direction. And with those flights, some of the people on fixed incomes (many retirees) who are a boost to the winter/spring month’s economies.
Economic activity within Belize has re-started but with no tourism dollars coming in and so many unemployed, domestic tourism is just not enough to sustain our hotels, gift shops or resorts.
In a recent BTIA (Belize Tourism Industry Association) paper titled: “THE CASE FOR LONG-TERM LENDING TO SUPPORT BELIZE’S TOURISM INDUSTRY AND BY EXTENSION SPUR THE NATION’S ECONOMIC RECOVERY.”, members state:
“The implications of these unknowns is that there is a strong likelihood that levels of visitor arrivals in Belize will remain far lower than most local observers estimate and that the duration of low arrival numbers will last longer.”
Our local airline Tropic Air has seen large lay-offs – and as time progresses with no reopening date announced, airlines like Southwest and COPA have canceled flights for 2020 to Belize.
Yesterday evening, Tropic Air CEO sent out this plea to BTIA members:
Dear BTIA Member,
We ask for your kind support in the ongoing effort to open the Philip Goldson International Airport on July 1. We also ask for your support to get a public statement from BTIA to that effect.
You may not want to open your business at this time, and we understand and appreciate that, but the potential to lose vital international air service for the long term grows with every month we remain closed. We have already lost Southwest for the rest of this year. COPA will not resume until December. United, last night, cut its flights from 16 a week to 5. And the list goes on. The airlines will only reopen routes (that will lose money for the foreseeable future) where they have a committed partner that wants to start rebuilding from now. They will not invest in a country that doesn’t want to share their risk. The more we wait, the longer it will take to get back to the airlift levels needed to fill your hotels, tour boats, gifts shops and restaurants. The longer we wait to start rebuilding traffic, the more likely the scenario becomes that the airlines will abandon Belize altogether, taking their planes permanently to other open destinations.
Opening the airport now will not bring a rush of tourists. It will be a long slow process to rebuild traffic. It will be a process where we learn to live and become comfortable with the new normal. With the few passengers that arrive we will have time to streamline and perfect the health protocols to protect the public.
BTIA Members should know that a comprehensive reopening plan is nearing completion. This plan is a model for reopening safely and goes far beyond what other Caribbean countries are doing. It includes comprehensive testing protocols to ensure near zero risk of a Covid-19 positive person entering the country through PGIA. It further includes comprehensive mitigation requirements and thorough screening with proactive contact tracing utilizing an app as well as strategic questionnaires to facilitate anticipated contact tracing. This comprehensive plan now hinges only on obtaining the needed reagents for the Covid-19 testing equipment already in place.
We see other competing countries like Antigua and Costa Rica opening. The time for us to do the same, is here. We ask for your kind support in letting your BTIA leadership at all levels know that you support the effort to get Belize moving again.
Some Caribbean Neighbors Are Beginning to Re-Open but Latin America is Seeing an Upswing in the Virus
A cluster of Caribbean islands have announced reopenings date for international tourism. US Virgin Islands, June 1st. Antigua and Barbuda, June 4. Dominican Republic, July 1st.
The Caribbean islands have a big advantage when it comes to border control – they are islands.
Latin America – even our Central American neighbors and Mexico – are seeing rising cases of CoVid and many moving with much more caution. Panama just re-imposed restrictions in certain areas (after easing a bit) to try to slow rising rates.
Costa Rica is working to move forward and has suggested a June 30th/July 1st date for international travel.
Belize’s Re-Opening Date – Uncertain
The Prime Minister of Belize has made it clear that we will need reliable, fast testing for the country to re-open. He has said that our International Airport will open most likely before our land borders. And he also indicated that if tests aren’t available, we would have to open by November 1, 2020.
We are entering the slower season right now – generally, the time of the year when our usual tourists – from the US and Canada – are vacationing domestically. It’s when our weather is the hottest and potentially the wettest.
Health is the highest priority in the decision-making process. But the government is receiving immense pressure from some of the business community and others, to re-open as quickly as possible.
A Poll: What Are Your Thoughts?
So I’m curious what you think. I’m sticking with just ONE question right now…since I’ve been trying to figure out how to get this poll in my WordPress blog program for about two hours now…
Here we go:
Example – I think December 2020’s tourism arrivals will be equal to about 50% of December 2019’s arrivals number.