The Belize Tourism Board Action Plan dictates future goals
Recognising the importance of tourism to Belize’s present and future economy, the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) launched its Action Plan 2010-2012. The Plan dictated not only changes to the internal workings of the BTB but also the external steps needed to reach visitors and engage industry stakeholders. The plan’s priorities included the establishment of offices to manage online and offline marketing as well as new media and sustainability offices. The Plan also contained information on how the BTB could work more closely with other tourism-based associations and public sector agencies. Based on the successes of the 2010-2012 Plan and after consulting with stakeholders throughout the industry, the BTB created the Action Plan 2013-2015. Based on the framework of the Government’s 20-year National Tourism Sustainable Master Plan, the new Plan includes a new logo for the BTB, designed with a “contemporary, yet classic vibe to represent tourism in Belize; modern yet timeless” as well as revised branding from “Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret” to the active “Discover How to Be”.
Safety and security an increasing concern
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Belize is the sixth most violent country in the world due to its high murder rate per capita: 40 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2012. The majority of homicides are gang-related and occur in Belize City although homicides are on the rise in the northern and western districts on the borders with Mexico and Guatemala, respectively. Burglaries, thefts and muggings are also becoming increasingly common. Violent crimes against tourists are rare although robberies and muggings have occurred in some tourist destinations. Despite limited crime against tourists in Belize, Canada issued a travel warning in April 2014, noting “criminal activity, including armed robbery, mugging and sexual assault, is a significant problem throughout Belize. Robberies and assaults have been reported in resort areas. There has been a noted increase in violent crime targeting tourists since the end of 2013”. The Canadian Government does not consider the warning to be a nationwide advisory but still advises travellers to, “exercise a high degree of caution”.
The destruction of ancient Mayan site causes outrage
In Belize, Mayan history and culture plays a large role in tourism and there are numerous ruins and archaeological sites that tourists can visit. However, in May 2013, the international and national community were outraged to discover that a construction company, while working on a road repair project in northern Belize, bulldozed one of the country’s largest Mayan pyramids - the 2,300 year-old Nohmul - for road fill. While the monument was on private lands, all pre-Hispanic ruins are under government protection. As a result, charges of wilfully damaging and removing earth from an ancient monument and destruction of an ancient monument were brought against the owners, foreman and excavator operator of the construction company. Currently, there is no resolution to the charges of destruction.
Popular US television programme draws attention to Belize
In August 2013, an estimated 4.8 million viewers watched as a character on the popular US television programme, Breaking Bad, suggested “sending [someone] on a trip to Belize", which many considered to be an unflattering mention that would deter travellers from visiting the country. However, the BTB immediately capitalised on the country’s mention by tweeting invitations for a visit to some of the actors on the show. The BTB followed up with an official invitation for the show’s creator and eight cast members to spend an all-expenses paid four-day, three-night trip to Belize. Breaking Bad’s use of Belize on the show as well as BTB’s response received significant attention in the media, which drew further attention to the country.
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