Year Ends on High Note for Belize Ecotourism
Ecotourism and environmental sustainability in Belize are thriving as 2013 comes to an end, according to The Lodge at Chaa Creek and tourism industry statistics.
Roberto Harrison, Chaa Creek’s marketing administrator, said that 2013 was one of the Belize tourism industry’s best, and that he feels confident about the industry’s prospects for 2014.
“Tourism, and especially true Eco-Tourism, is a very volatile market, but even with all the ups and downs the industry faced last year, we came out with great results, and that bodes well for eco-tourism in general,” Mr Harrison said.
“The really good news is that people are responding positively to the message and philosophy of ecotourism and responsible travel,” he added.
According to Belize’s “San Pedro Sun”, the Belize Tourism Board reported that, while it was still awaiting border control figures, “2013 started off with exceptional overnight arrivals. January, February, and March of this year saw 17.2%, 14.3%, and 13.0% increases, respectively, when compared to last year’s overnight arrivals. Overall, the period of January – August 2013 saw roughly 17,228 more visitors than 2012.
“Cruise tourism got off to a promising start this year. Overall, cruise is performing at a 5.3% increase over last year,” the BTB stated.
And the Travel Pulse website noted that visitors to Belize were expected to reach the 300,000 mark before the end of the year. “Belize tourism is showing strong results despite recent setbacks including a September fire that razed the popular Ramon’s Village resort in the resort town of San Pedro,” it reported.
Mr Harrison said the good news is that these figures send a strong environmental message.
“Belizean tourism leans very strongly towards ecotourism, so as a relative newcomer to world-class tourism, we’re showing that a tourism industry can be successful without harming the environment. In fact, Chaa Creek, like many of our colleagues, actually makes strong environmental and social contributions to the environment and society of Belize. We like to think that we’re a successful model for other destinations,” he said.
Belize achieved independence in 1981, the same year that Chaa Creek, the country’s first eco-resort, opened. Since that time, Belize moved from an agrarian based to a tourism based economy, and this has provided many benefits to the people of Belize, Mr Harrison explained.
“Ecotourism has not only raised the quality of life for countless Belizeans, it has also made the people more environmentally conscious and aware of things like the importance of our Maya heritage,” Mr Harrison said, pointing out that Belize has a large Maya population and one of the world’s highest concentrations of ancient Maya archaeological sites per capita.
Mr Harrison said that since becoming Belize’s first Green Globe Certified resort, Chaa Greek continued along a rigorous environmentally sustainable and socially responsible path, instituting the Chaa Creek Cares program, which sees 10% of all room revenue going directly into environmental and social programs.
The fact that the eco resort is able to employ such vigorous sustainable practices while still maintaining a high degree of casual luxury is not lost on other resorts, or guests, he said.
“As the year ends we just noticed that Chaa Creek has a 93% approval rating with Trip Advisor, which once again shows that you don’t need to sacrifice comfort and luxury to operate sustainably,” he said.
As for 2014, Mr Harrison said that Chaa Creek’s is expanding its offerings, tours and activities while maintaining a program of continual improvement in sustainability.
“Chaa Creek’s owners, the Fleming family, have been promoting responsible travel for over thirty years now, so I don’t think we’ll be seeing any changes to that philosophy. If anything, they and the staff are constantly on the lookout for ways to decrease our carbon footprint while spreading the message that being Green works,” Mr Harrison said.
“And, according to the figures, that message is being heard,” he added.
The Lodge at Chaa Creek is an award winning eco resort set within a 365 acre private nature reserve in Belize.