Growth in a range of sectors throughout Belize provide a fitting end to 2013 and a harbinger of progress for 2014, according to the owner of a popular Belizean eco resort.
Lucy Fleming, who with her husband Mick owns The Lodge at Chaa Creek, pointed to the expansion of transportation options as one indicator that Belize is preparing to accommodate even more visitors to its shores next year.
“We just heard that National and Alamo car rentals brands will soon be available in Belize, which is another sign that major corporations have confidence in the Belizean market,” Ms Fleming said.
“Combined with increased domestic and international air service announced this year, and the arrival of new tours and activities being made available, I think it’s safe to say that confidence in the Belize market is at an all-time high for 2014,’ she said.
Asked about advancements in her own industry, Ms Fleming said that new eco-tourism products are constantly developing, and that the public can expect to see even more exotic new offerings next year.
“Families, romance adventurers, groups and individuals seeking something new and exciting will want to keep an eye on Belize during the first quarter of 2014,” she said, “We’ve been brainstorming new ideas at Chaa Creek, and I know that we’re not alone. Our Caribbean and Inland colleagues are all taking the creative approach for next year. There’s a lot of electricity in the air right now,” Ms Fleming said.
“For example, we just offered three new complementary add-ons to our all-inclusive Belize vacation packages that are quite exiting and distinctly Belizean,” she added.
Since achieving independence from Great Britain 32 years ago last September, Belize has been the country tourism professionals have watched. With a minuscule marketing budget, virtually no name recognition and very little in the way of infrastructure, the tiny Caribbean nation of under 340,00 people instead parlayed stunning natural features and a diverse geographical landscape combined with a friendly English speaking population to achieve unprecedented growth as a tourism destination.
Ms Fleming said Belize was lucky in that much of the early buzz was generated by celebrities.
“It’s no secret that celebrities and certain type of people are attracted by the novelty factor, and these people become trend setters and influencers. We regard our guests’ privacy very seriously at Chaa Creek, but it was no secret that Price Harry, for example, made mention that he enjoyed his stay with us, and the names of many well-known people became associated with Belize in general last year.
“Once you have that sort of reputation, curiosity and attraction by association just builds.
“Then, of course, once people discovered the Belize Great Barrier Reef and the famous Blue Hole, the thousands of Maya archaeological sites, including the sacred cave system and huge metropolises like Caracol and Tikal, and then the sheer amount of healthy activities ranging from the moderate to the extreme, Belize did a good job of selling itself.’
However, Ms Fleming said “the little country that could” is not content to rest on its laurels.
“I think it’s been established that we’re stunning and warm and friendly and relaxed. Now we want to prove that we’re also dynamic, that we can offer new things no one else has can to keep giving people new reasons for coming back.
“While we certainly don’t want to become some glitzy corporatized Caribbean hotspot and we need to safeguard ourselves against large companies who want to exploit our natural resources, we do have our own home-grown, Belizean plans to develop as an interesting eco destination that appeals to young and old, to families, groups, couples and a wide variety of people.
“We have a swag of awards to prove that a commitment to a sustainable tourism industry fostering responsible travel doesn’t mean you need to skimp on quality or excellence of service. Far from it, And Chaa Creek adventures have shown that Green isn’t boring. Any tourism expert around the world will say that professionalism in Belize has grown in leaps and bounds. But in a way that pays homage to the stunning environment and ancient traditions we’ve been blessed with.
“That’s what makes Belize, and our business so rewarding to be a part of. We still haven’t lost the enthusiasm we had in the 1970s.
“Belize does that to you,” she said.