Belize, like many other Caribbean countries, had shut down its borders in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Not to mention, which has also severely restricted air travel globally. On April 4, 2020, Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced the complete closure of all borders and ports of entry, including via Philip Goldson International Airport (BZE) and Belize’s land borders. During border closures, Belize built an extensive Tourism Gold Standard program alongside its Travel Reopening Plan. On October 1, Belize officially reopened its air border for international travel via the Philip Goldson International Airport (BZE). Resuming air travel via its international airport marked Phase 3, while Phase 4 denotes the Full Reopening of Overnight Tourism and Phase 5 denotes Cruise Tourism. As a gentle reminder, Belize’s land borders remain closed for travel.
In part of preparing for a safe reopening, the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) simultaneously launched their reopening plans for hotels, restaurants and tour operators. The new guidelines outline the enhanced health and safety protocols which are being introduced; it is a part of the Government of Belize, the Belize Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Health, and the BTB’s commitment to keep Belizeans, tourism dependent communities, and visitors safe from the risks related to coronavirus. As such, the Caribbean nation of Belize has been open for commercial travel for three months as of October 1, 2020.
PHASE 4 – Full Reopening of Belize’s Overnight Tourism Sector
A full reopening of Belize’s overnight tourism sector is listed as phase 4, with no update given to a previous January 2021 timeline. Additionally, no date has been given for the reopening of Belize’s land or maritime borders, which remain closed. Given the current high case numbers of neighboring countries in Mexico and Guatemala, Belize’s land and maritime borders remain closed; this also includes smaller ports of entry.
“Only 1% of tourists come from Mexico, and 13% from Europe via Guatemala. With high COVID-19 cases, that’s a risk Belize is not willing to take.”
PHASE 5 – The Return of Cruise Tourism to Belize
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted its sailing ban in October but has extensive safety requirements carriers must meet before they head to sea with passengers in tow. One of the many requirements set out by the U.S. government includes simulated voyages and test trips; this is to prove that a ship can prevent and contain outbreaks onboard. Cruises likely will continue to face roadblocks to restarting widespread sailing until rapid, reliable tests become available at ports or vaccines become widely available, one operator told the Journal last month. However, cruise tourism is listed as the last phase in Belize’s reopening plan for travel. Additionally, the CDC recommends against any cruise travel at time of writing.