Ah, it’s so nice to be wanted...
Especially when it seems like only yesterday that Belize was marketed as “Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret,” with the very mention of the name usually resulting in blank stares.
Well, those days of anonymity are well and truly over, and have been for some time, with each new year bringing yet another increase in travellers arriving or returning to these shores. And so it is again in 2018, with recently released data from the Belize Tourism Board showing yet another record jump in tourist arrivals.
In fact, we’re talking a double-digit, “ground-breaking” increase in both overnight and cruise ship tourist arrivals for the first half of the year as compared with 2017 figures.
According to the BTB stats, overnight tourist arrivals increased by 17.1% for the first half of the year as compared to 2017, with cruise ship arrivals up 10.2%.
To give an idea of just how steady this growth has been, the month of June has been recording at least 10% growth in overnight arrivals for the last three years, with June 2018 showing a 15.1% increase over last year.
Cruise ship arrivals are also up – by a whopping 57% for June 2018 as compared to 2017.
That translates to 20 cruise ship calls with over 73,000 passengers – 26,000 more than arrived in June 2017.
And while we’re impressed and happy, we don’t think Belize’s growing popularity is that surprising. Not when you consider:
Where else, in a country only some 170 miles (274 km) long by 68 (109 km) wide, can you find such variety? Like the world’s second largest barrier reef protecting scores of islands and a beautiful Caribbean coast, pristine jungles as far as the eye can see filled with an incredible variety of wildlife and over 600 species of birds, and caves, waterfalls, the Maya Mountains, Mountain Pine Ridge and so much more? Even dedicated return visitors keep finding new things to discover.
Belizeans are now known worldwide as some of the friendliest people on the planet – just check out any guidebook or travel site. We think it has something to do with Belize’s harmonious multiculturalism, and the fact that, historically, people of so many different ethnicities lived together in what was a remote outpost where cooperation was the key to survival. It was a lifestyle that led to tolerance and that enduring, endearing Belizean expression of “Hand Wash Hand.” Warm, English-speaking and welcoming, Belizeans are Belize’s greatest asset.
While many travellers come to Belize for the abundance of well preserved ancient Maya temples, cities, ceremonial caves and other remnants of this highly advanced ancient civilisation, they soon discover and enjoy a special brand of vibrant multiculturalism where diversity and harmony meet. Maya, Creole, Mestizo, Garifuna, European, German Mennonite, North Americans, Lebanese, East and West Indian, Asians and others are all proud of and preserving their individual cultures while seamlessly blending together as Belizeans. It’s a cultural feast – and you’re invited!
From swimming, snorkelling, diving, sailing, fishing, island hopping along the largest barrier reef in the hemisphere, to exploring ancient Maya temples, cities and caves, or zip lining, canoeing and horseback riding inland, and with a lively music and arts scene, a plethora of spas, wellness centres, high quality restaurants, cafes and clubs virtually everywhere, it’s impossible to become bored in Belize.
Of course, every traveller is different, and looks for different things while vacationing or travelling. Chances are, however, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Belize.
And one last note on this rising popularity.
Will Belize become too big for its britches? Will this steady increase in tourist arrivals lead to overcrowding? Will the famously friendly Belizeans become jaded?
Not to worry...
With one of the lowest population densities in the Americas, and with over 25% of the land under some form of protection, there’s no chance of Belize becoming crowded anytime soon. And the beauty of the national focus on sustainable tourism is that development has, and continues to be, environmentally and socially sensitive.
Chaa Creek is a perfect example of the growth of Belizean tourism. Started by a young couple in love with the land and people in the late 1970s, and beginning with a few simple thatched-roofed huts, Chaa Creek grew slowly and organically.
Rather than cut trees, the Flemings built around them. They grew bay palm to replace the leaf they thatched their buildings with. They recycle pretty much everything – kitchen refuse goes into the organic Maya farm that supplies the farm-to-table dining, bottles are crushed and used as aggregate with cement for walkways and construction, furniture is made onsite with sustainably harvested timber (like pulling ancient trees from the bottom of the river), and so on.
And, with ten percent of all room revenue going directly into environmental and community projects under the Chaa Creek Cares program, and with initiatives like “Pack-a-Pound” Chaa Creek’s guests are active partners in ensuring that the Belize they love today will be just as loveable tomorrow.
So c’mon down! There’s plenty of room...