As a tourism-reliant region, most Caribbean nations, including Belize, would classify a successful reopening plan as one that can open, and remain open. Here’s a look back at Belize’s Travel Reopening Plan as the country prepares to enter its fifth and final phase with the slated return of cruise tourism on July 7.
PHASE 1—May 2020—Domestic Travel & and Repatriation of Belizean Cruise Crew
Early on, a strict national curfew and state of emergency were mandated for Belize. Over the course of April and May, restrictions were gradually relaxed which included an encouraging boost for domestic travel. Local hotels and resorts extended discounted rates for local tourism as “staycation specials,” while Belizean crew members from various cruise lines were repatriated into mandatory quarantine.
PHASE 2—June 2020—Chartered Air Repatriation
Chartered air service for repatriation for Belizeans began via United Airlines in June 2020. Although several repatriation flights were allowed to depart Belize in April and May, Belizeans to be repatriated from abroad are expected to continue into August. Presently, all returning Belizeans must go into mandatory quarantine in a government-approved facility and test negative before being released.
On September 25, Belize accepted its last chartered repatriation flight on commercial airline United, ahead of its international airport reopening for leisurely travel on October 1. Thirty-eight more Belizeans arrived to the Philip Goldson International Airport, rounding out a total of 2,274 Belizeans applied for repatriation with 956 successfully repatriated.
Some repatriations have arrived via cruise ships, where they had been employed, or via land borders of Guatemala and Mexico. However, the large majority have been arriving through the Philip Goldson International Airport. Simultaneously, North American citizens and residents were repatriated to the U.S. and Canada on return flights, thanks to respective embassies.
PHASE 3—October 2020—International Airport Reopens for Leisurely Travel
On October 1, the reopening of the Philip Goldson International Airport marked a phased reopening for leisurely travel. Entry protocols for arriving travelers included a negative PCR test result, taken within 72 hours of travel; or, pay for a rapid test within the airport at the traveler’s expense. Belizean citizens and residents on arrival will be not be given the option of a rapid test within the airport, but rather a PCR Test instead. In addition, mandatory temperature checks at the airport; numerous sanitizing procedures; and agreement to adhere to a track and trace system.
PHASE 4—January 2021—Overnight Tourism Sector Reopens
Slowly but surely, Belize entered its fourth phase of its Travel Reopening Plan as of January 2021. Maritime borders reopened for yachting tourism in February 2021, followed by its land borders on May 31, 2021. Visitors with the explicit purpose of recreation or vacation may cross either of Belize’s land borders—Benque Viejo Del Carmen at Belize’s Guatemalan border in the west or the Santa Elena border in the north that borders Mexico—with a negative COVID-19 test and Gold Standard Certified Accommodation in hand.
As the fifth and final phase of Belize’s Travel Reopening Plan, cruise tourism is slated to return with the arrival on Carnival Vista, a Carnival Cruise Line ship, to Belize City on July 7, 2021. The ship will embark from Galveston, Texas and will be the first ship to call on Belize since the suspension of the cruise industry in the region over a year ago. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has also indicated a return to service with Harvest Caye on August 9, 2021. NCL’s Norwegian Joy will depart from its homeport in Montego Bay, Jamaica on August 7, and will include Belize as a part of its week-long Western Caribbean itinerary.