Eco-Tourism is the Future and Belize is the Destination

by Carolee Chanona

At a time like now, destination stewardship is critical as countries prepare to reopen borders and welcome travelers back—this includes a tentative reopening date for Belize’s air borders. When travelers are ready to go, destinations like Belize must be prepared to welcome travelers in a sustainable way. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to reshape a new normal in the travel industry—we have to rebuild smarter, wiser, and more sustainably. In Belize, sustainable travel, shorthand simply for tourism, must meet the needs of today without sacrificing our ability to meet the needs of the future. According to a survey by AFAR, more people expect to travel internationally in 2021 than they did in 2019. In fact, 66 percent are planning a trip right now. By choosing Belize, you’re making a long-lasting, positive economic and environmental impact in ecotourism with your visit.

Destination Stewardship

Essentially, sustainable tourism is the management of all resources in such a way that economic, social, and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled. Simultaneously, while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity, and life support systems. With Belize’s natural tourism product and authentic cultural experiences, we know that our eco-tourism market is the meaningful trip travelers are looking for. The pace of travel, akin to ‘Belize time’, is slower. Your Belize experience becomes deeper, more distinctive, and more meaningful. In many ways, individuals, organizations, resorts, and even the Government, abide by this eco-ethos. Tourism stakeholders have made conscious efforts to integrate sustainability – long before it was a term – like The Lodge at Chaa Creek, or the self-sustaining and solar-powered Ray Caye.

As we build back better from the current crisis, the preservation of biodiversity and better management of our interaction with the natural world will help to achieve the future we want. While protecting the health and wellbeing for generations to come.”

– The Government of Belize in its World Biodiversity Day celebrations

Belize makes history as the first country in the world to ban offshore oil exploration

Photo Credit: Jose Luis Zapata

The diversity of Belize’s people, jobs, and food are all rooted in our natural resources; it’s why we recognize the importance of doing what we can to protect our home. That’s why we safeguard and conserve Belize’s natural heritage and biodiversity. The same stands true for our 184.5 miles of Belizean coral reef. In what was hailed as a hugely significant point for marine conservation worldwide, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System was removed from UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in danger list in June 2018, after 10 years. That followed the introduction of regulations to protect mangroves and, crucially, a vote by Belize’s government for an indefinite moratorium on all new oil exploration in its waters after thousands of citizens joined with environmental groups to push for a referendum on the issue.

The reef is an integral part of many Belizeans’ livelihoods, whether it’s in the fishing or tourism industry. After efforts from environmental organizations, like Oceana Belize, and support from Belizean citizens, Belize celebrated yet another victory in preserving our home. In 2019, Belize became the first country in the world to put a moratorium on all offshore oil exploration and drilling.

What makes Belize an ecotourism destination

In 2009, Belizean advocates successfully lobbied for the protection and catch-and-release of Belize’s three sport-fishing species. Which, in turn, helped secure the numerous benefits of the fly-fishing sector and ecotourism in Belize. A decade later, Belize announced they’d be phasing out single-use plastic for the entire country.

Though tiny but mighty, Belize boasts an impressive 46 percent of protected landmass under our National Protected Areas System. So while eco-tourism is a tool for conservation, livelihoods from these protected areas allow the use of the natural resources sustainably. For example, bird-watching at Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary. Not to mention, each person visiting Belize literally contributes to conservation with a fee in their departure tax. In Belize, we’re building a community of custodians in both locals and international travelers. There are no easy answers to the challenges of destination-based travel demands. However, it’s clear that the future of Belize’s tourism is through sustainability. That way, Belize’s treasures will be more enjoyable as a long-lasting destination to visit.

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