What does the National Sustainable Tourism Master Plan have in store for Ambergris Caye and the islands? – The Government of Belize, along with the Belize Tourism Board, plans to double the number of overnight arrivals for Belize by 2030, thereby boosting the Belize tourism industry’s annual contribution to the economy to approximately US$1.2Bil. This is quite an undertaking, but something very positive for our country. With this plan, hopefully along the way to 2030, we will see many improvements in our tourism sector which is the main industry in our country.
Earlier in July 2011, the Ministry Of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture and the Belize Tourism Board, through the Sustainable Tourism Program held the final presentation of the National Sustainable Tourism Master Plan (NSTMP).
The NSTMP serves as a clear “actionable” road map to guide the Government of Belize and tourism industry stakeholders. Achieving this goal by 2030 is based on sustainable tourism principles and practices, as well as utilizing a zoning approach to tourism development.
The Master Plan is unique in its aim to address Belize’s tourism development from a physical planning standpoint and recommends a land-use strategy that carries a conspicuous focus on the long term sustainability of Belize’s natural environment whilst developing our tourism industry. The Plan also gave a detailed look at five specific areas throughout Belize, thereby, resulting in five destination-specific projects for Belize City’s Waterfront areas, San Ignacio Town, the Placencia Peninsula and Riversdale area, and Ambergris Caye.
The main pillar and inspiration of this Master Plan is CONSERVATION. Major tourism that differentiates Belize from other Caribbean and Central American destinations are the generally unspoiled natural environment and cultural resources. The Barrier Reef and Cayes of Belize, and the Mayan antiquities are world class by any standard. The simple truth is that if the Tourism Industry in Belize is to provide a long-term benefit to Belize, the natural environment must take center stage in any and all planning regimes.
What does the National Sustainable Tourism Master Plan have in store for Ambergris Caye and the islands? Here is a summary of that plan:
Northern Islands: In Ambergris Caye, San Pedro will be regarded as a charming and attractive destination including a vibrant town with a walkable and attractive waterfront experience where beaches are able to be enjoyed with unobstructed water scenery. Caye Caulker will continue to offer low-key charm along with attractive beaches and a cultural offering. Both destinations will provide a mainly nature-based niche product as well as nautical and sun and beach in second rank.
Model of Development
In terms of development, the conceptual principle for the northern islands destination is to constrain the development and consolidate and improve what it has already been built. Keeping in mind the mentioned idea, both the existing settlements in Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye are defined as infill and completion of existing town / village. On the north tip of Ambergris Caye three very low density resort hotels are planned outside from Bacalar Chico National Park.
Secondly, the plan proposes some small low density new developments off the main road leading north and after the bridge north from San Pedro. The idea is to complete some of the areas that have already been recently urbanized. As commented on section 4 for Ambergris Caye this study proposes to develop studies to convert into hotel units the empty apartments or unfinished compounds built around the main road north from San Pedro
Level 1 (around 4 units/acre – 10 units/hectare): New developments north of San Pedro
Level 2 (up to 20 units/acre – 50 units/ hectare): San Pedro, Caye Caulker, 3 designated areas north Ambergris Caye
Accommodation Growth Model
From 2012 to 2020, the Northern Islands will see the development of 233 new hotel rooms and a further 105 from 2021 until 2030, adding up to a total of 338 new hotel rooms by 2030. In order to maintain the occupancy rate on a positive growth track, no additional hotels should be introduced until 2013. These few years are recommended to be devoted to the development and distribution of special incentives for the restoration, embellishment and modernization of the existing tourism accommodation facilities.
In addition, a series of operational strategies are recommended to be identified in order to convert condominiums into hotel facilities or condo-hotels. This strategy was identified as, especially, Ambergris Caye’s tourism industry experiences distress with condominium being empty for long periods at times and tourists who use them do not consume additional tourism services.
The first new hotels and resorts in the Northern Islands are recommended to open in 2014. The main developments are to open in 2015 and 2020 given that, mainly serving as a complement to the sun & beach resorts of the destination and northern area low-density luxury developments. From 2025 onwards, only few hotels/hotel rooms with low density will be introduced.
Read more on Ambergris Caye’s Destination Management Plan
Learn more about Belize’s Sustainable Tourism Plan around the Country