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Another Record Year for Belize’s Tourism Industry

The Belize Tourism Board (BTB) held its 8th Annual Industry Presentation this past Wedneday morning, February 22, at the Princess Hotel and Casino, attended by many stakeholders from around the country. According to the reports, 2005 was another record year for Belize’s vibrant tourism industry.

Last year, the tourism industry brought in over $200 million to the country’s economy, and broke many records. Hotel revenues accounted for $103 million; there was a 7% jump in arrivals through the airport while more than 800,000 visitors came via cruise ships. The news was good and Prime Minister Said Musa, who delivered the keynote address, says it can only get better.

“Over the past year, the performance of the tourism industry in Belize has been stable and sound,” said Musa during his keynote address. “I therefore sincerely congratulate and thank all stakeholders for another successful year for tourism in Belize. The campaign to make tourism a national priority must begin now in the schools, in the classrooms, in government departments, in the media houses, and in the private sector-all across Belize. For tourism the future is now and we should all be proud of it.”

But as the industry celebrated 2005, some in the accommodation sector are apprehensive about 2006. This July the General Sales Tax (GST) comes in to effect and the law states that hotels will not be zero-rated. This means hoteliers will have to pay the GST out of their own pockets, without ever getting a refund. President of the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA), Lucy Fleming, says that’s just unacceptable.

“What we’re looking for is a Zero-rating under the GST and tourism, which as you know is being treated as an export market,” said Lucy Fleming, BTIA President. “So just as with all the other export markets, we be given that same rating which help us to grow our industry.”

PM Musa for his part said that Government recognizes that the hotel sector has concerns over certain aspects of the impending GST and has asked the Minister of Tourism to act in concert with the BTB to review regional models and to continue the consultations with the sectors.

“What we clearly heard today from the Prime Minister gave me certainly, and I think other people in the audience got a real sense of confidence when the Prime Minister said to us, yes tourism is our number one industry, yes tourism is an export industry,” said Lucy Fleming (BTIA). “That gave me the confidence that government is open to reviewing the taxing area that we have been placed under, the exempt rating of GST. The problem as you know also with the exempt rating of the GST is that not only are we non-competitive with our other sectors within the country because we won’t get tax credits, we will become increasingly non-competitive regionally and internationally.”

And with or without the GST, Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, Vince Vanderpool-Wallace, says Belize should be selling Belize “the experience” and not just Belize “the destination.” “A brand is very simply a reputation,” said Vince Vanderpool-Wallace, CTO Secretary General. “It’s a reputation for the consistent delivery of a product or service at or above the level of expectations to customer. It is a fancy word that means nothing more than what your reputation is. Where does your reputation come from? It’s the experience stupid.” It is of note that 70% of BTB’s budget comes from the hotel sector. The BTB budgets to spend $10 million dollars in the next fiscal year and more than half of that will go to advertising and public relations. (Source: 7News)

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