ⓘ Tourism in Belize

Tourism in Belize

ⓘ Tourism in Belize

Tourism in Belize has grown considerably recently, and it is now the second largest industry in the nation. Belizean Prime Minister Dean Barrow has stated his intention to use tourism to combat poverty throughout the country. The growth in tourism has positively affected the agricultural, commercial, and finance industries, as well as the construction industry. The results for Belizes tourism-driven economy have been significant, with the nation welcoming almost one million tourists in a calendar year for the first time in its history in 2012.


1. History

Prior to its independence in 1981, Belize was not regarded as a place to travel due to lack of infrastructure to cater to large-scale tourism. However, rapid expansion of the tourist industry over the last decade has made it the nations second largest industry.

Tourism: Belize has large array of diverse tourists, adventure tourists and eco-tourist attractions. The Belize Barrier Reef second largest in the world, over 450 offshore Cayes islands, excellent fishing, safe waters for windsurfing, swimming, cave rafting, boating, paddleboarding, scuba diving, and snorkelling, numerous rivers for rafting, and kayaking, various jungle and wildlife reserves of fauna and flora, for hiking, bird watching, and helicopter touring, as well as many Maya ruins - support the thriving tourism and ecotourism industry. Of the hundreds of cave systems, Belize also holds the largest cave system in Central America, 544 species of birds, and well-preserved natural beauty. Despite all this, it is still among the least visited country in the region.

Development costs are high, but the Government of Belize has designated tourism as its second development priority after agriculture. In 2012, tourist arrivals totalled 917.869 with about 584.683 from the U.S. and tourist receipts amounted to over $1.3 billion.

Tourism is the domain of the Ministry of Tourism, within which the Belize Tourism Board works as a link between the private and public sector.

The tourism industry is an important part of the economy of Belize, in 2007 contributing to over 25% of all jobs, and making up over 18% of the GDP. This constituted 590 million BZD 295 million USD, according to the Belize government, up 90 million BZD 45 million USD from the year before. Important tourist attractions in Belize include the natural attractions of land and sea, making the areas important in Ecotourism, as well as the historic ruins of Belizes Pre-Columbian Maya civilization.

Popular tourist destinations include San Pedro Town and Caye Caulker, both located about 70 km and 40 km east off the coast of Belize, both situation only a few miles from the Barrier Reef at any point. They have been regarded as a "tropical paradises" by the Los Angeles Times. Cruise ships have been docking in Belize City, and average 850.000 tourists alone every year, some who partake in tours to nearby districts as well as the colonial city.


1.1. History Popular cayes

  • Caye Caulker
  • San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye
  • Laughing Bird Caye
  • Blackadore Caye
  • Caye Chapel
  • St. Georges Caye
  • Sapodilla Cayes
  • Coco Plum Island
  • Half Moon Caye
  • Goffs Caye
  • Tobacco Caye

1.2. History Rural and community-based tourism

Many privately run companies have cooperatives in Southern Belize that manage a rural and community-based tourism project, which has been developed with support from the UNESCO. Tourism allows otherwise marginalized minorities such as the Maya and the Garifuna people to receive new opportunities in alternative markets, harvest crops, preserve and involve foreigners in their culture and diversify their income. Many companies offer visitors the opportunity to visit a cacao, cashew farm, learn about Maya, Kriol or Garifuna craftsmanship, and even to stay overnight on a Maya, Kriol or Garifuna village and explore with a community guide.


1.3. History Ecological tourism

Eco-tourism aims to be ecologically and socially conscious, it focuses on local culture, wilderness, and adventure. Belizes eco-tourism is growing with every passing year, it boasts a number of eco-tourist tours and energy efficient hotels, with environmentally-conscious and renewable resources. Popular eco-tourism destinations in Belize include the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Community Baboon Sanctuary.


1.4. History Waterfalls

  • Rio On Pools
  • Butterfly Falls in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve of the Cayo District
  • San Antonio Falls
  • Mayflower Bocawina Falls in Mayflower Bocawina National Park
  • Antelope Falls in Mayflower Bocawina National Park
  • Five Sisters Falls in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve of the Cayo District
  • Rio Blanco Falls
  • Big Rock Falls in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve of the Cayo District
  • Thousand Foot Falls 150-foot 46 m in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve of the Cayo District

2. Archaeological reserves

Before the arrival of Europeans in America, Belize lay in the heartland of the Maya civilisation, and consequently contains some of the earliest and most important Maya ruins. Archaeological findings at Caracol, in the southern end of the country, have suggested that it formed the centre of political struggles in the southern Maya lowlands. The complex covered an area much larger than present-day Belize City and supported more than twice the modern citys population. Meanwhile, Lamanai, in the north, is known for being the longest continually-occupied site in Mesoamerica, settled during the early Preclassic era and continuously occupied up to and during the areas colonisation.

While the majority of reserves under this category are related to the pre-colonial era, Serpon Sugar Mill and Yarborough Cemetery, both designated in 2009, only date from the 19th century and are alternatively described as historical reserves.

The countrys 15 archaeological sites are managed by the Institute of Archaeology, a branch of the National Institute of Culture and History NICH, which comes under the authority of the Ministry of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture. This type of protected area was gazetted under the Ancient Monuments and Antiquities Act, 1 May 1972. All of the following reserves are open to the public. Many other sites, such as Cuello and Uxbenka, are located on private land and can only be visited if prior permission is obtained from the landowner.


3. Main natural attractions

Roughly 26% 2.6 million acres, or 1.22 million hectares of Belizean land and sea is preserved within a total of 95 reserves, which vary in their purpose and level of protection. This network of protected areas exists under a variety of management structures:


3.1. Main natural attractions National parks

In Belize, national parks are areas designed for the protection and preservation of natural and aesthetic features of national significance for the benefit and enjoyment of the people. Therefore, they are areas of recreation and tourism, as well as environmental protection. National parks are gazetted under the National Parks System Act of 1981. They are administered by the Forest Department and managed through partnership agreements with community-based non-governmental organisations.


3.2. Main natural attractions Natural monuments

A natural monument is designated for the preservation of unique geographic features of the landscape. The designation is primarily based on a features high scenic value, but may also be regarded as a cultural landmark that represents or contributes to a national identity.

Natural monuments are gazetted under the National Parks System Act of 1981; marine-based monuments additionally come under the Fisheries Act. Of the five natural monuments in the country, three are terrestrial, administered by the Forest Department, while the remaining two are marine-based and come under the authority of the Fisheries Department.


3.3. Main natural attractions Nature reserves

The countrys three nature reserves enjoy the highest level of protection within the national protected areas system. The designation was created for the strict protection of biological communities or ecosystems, and the maintenance of natural processes in an undisturbed state. They are typically pristine, wilderness ecosystems.

Nature reserves are legislated under the National Parks System Act of 1981. It is the strictest designation of all categories within the countrys national protected areas system, with no extractive use or tourism access permitted. Permits are required to enter the area and are restricted to researchers only. The nature reserves are under the authority of the Forest Department.

The oldest of these, Bladen Nature Reserve, forms the centrepiece of the Maya Mountains biological corridor, and is considered one of the most biodiversity-rich, and topographically unique areas within the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot.


3.4. Main natural attractions Wildlife sanctuaries

Wildlife sanctuaries are created for the preservation of an important keystone species in the ecosystem. By preserving enough area for them to live in, many other species receive the protection they need as well.

Wildlife sanctuaries are gazetted under the National Parks System Act of 1981, and are the responsibility of the Forest Department. There are currently seven wildlife sanctuaries, three of which are being managed under co-management partnerships, whilst the other four are managed under informal arrangements. Two of the following wildlife sanctuaries are considered to be marine protected areas, and may also have collaborative agreements with the Fisheries Department in place.


3.5. Main natural attractions Forest reserves

Forest reserves, overseen by the Forest Department, are designed for the sustainable extraction of timber without destroying the biodiversity of the location. These are gazetted under the Forests Act of 1927, which allows the department to grant permits to logging companies after extensive review. There are currently 16 forest reserves with a combined acreage of 380.328 hectares 939.810 acres, making up 9.3% of total national territory.


3.6. Main natural attractions Marine reserves

Marine reserves are designed for the conservation of aquatic ecosystems, including marine wildlife and its environment. The majority of these reserves contribute to the conservation of Belizes Barrier Reef, which provides a protective shelter for pristine atolls, seagrass meadows and rich marine life. The preservation of the Barrier Reef system has been recognised as a global interest through the collective designation of seven protected areas, including four of the following marine reserves, as a World Heritage Site.

Marine reserves are legislated under the Fisheries Act, and are administered by the Fisheries Department. One of the departments key responsibilities is to ensure the sustainable extraction of marine resources. There are currently eight marine reserves, management of which is either direct, by the department, or in partnership with non-governmental agencies.

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