IDB funds Belize US$15 Million for 2nd Sustainable Tourism Program II
Saturday, March 12th, 2016
A year of consultation with Belize’s tourism professionals, property owners and investors about the industry’s needs culminated with the launch of the Sustainable Tourism Program II (STP2). The project will be funded with US$15 million from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) with matching funds from the Government of Belize.
IDB officials joined representatives of the Belize Tourism Board, the Belize Tourism Industry Association, the Belize Hotel Association, the National Protected Areas System, the National Institute of Culture and History, along with officials from the Ministries of Tourism and Forestry and Fisheries and Sustainable Development for a three-day launch workshop at the Black Orchid Lodge in Burrell Boom on Tuesday through Thursday, March 8-10.
IDB natural resources specialist Michele Lemay explained that the IDB has been collaborating with Belize in the development of the tourism sector since 1998, and while STP1 had focused on prime destinations like Belize City and San Ignacio, this second program will now address the needs of other not so well developed destinations like Corozal, Toledo, Caracol and Caye Caulker.
The program will have three parts: (i) enhancing the visitors’ experience by making these sites more attractive; (ii) reducing the vulnerability of these sites to the impacts of floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters; and (iii) training the people working in these areas to manage the industry better, through better information and statistics collection, for better policy and planning decisions.
The first phase will target archaeological sites like Nim Li Punit and Blue Creek in the Toledo district, the Santa Rita and Cerros sites in Corozal district; as well as the Caracol complex and the Rio Frio Caves and the Las Cuevas sites which come under the management of Protected Reserves in the Chiquibul forest.
This phase will also restore the cultural attraction of Corozal’s bayside plaza and create a welcome plaza and House of Culture in Toledo. Visitors will be able to learn more about Caracol and the Chiquibul sites through enhanced information centers. The project will also install signs on the forest trails and on buoys in the Corozal Bay; so that visitors can better appreciate what they are seeing. The waterfronts of Corozal and Punta Gorda will also be enhanced with gateways to the area, while Caye Caulker will receive infrastructure works to preserve the beach and minimize the effects of erosion.
The second phase calls for Toledo, Corozal and Caye Caulker to be assessed for their vulnerability to disasters and how to protect and preserve their neighboring eco-systems and the natural attractions of these areas. Along with this assessment of risk, the local operators will also be trained to protect what their districts have, and how to manage environmental crises. In this regard, Caye Caulker has special needs because of its protected areas, and so a land use management plan for the island and its adjacent waters will be introduced.
Informed decisions require good data collection, and so the third phase will improve the industry’s national system for collection of statistics. The national tourism policy will be reviewed and revised as needed, with new laws to address new issues that require protection and enforcement. The partnership with Mexican counterparts will be enhanced by a study of the Mexican market.
The unique Belizean product must be made more internationally identifiable through new branding initiatives. As Belize economy profits from tourism dollars, special care needs to be taken not to damage the resources we have. As such some archaeological sites will require an assessment of their carrying capacity in order to prevent overuse and wear to the areas.
The project will also provide for an education campaign for greater tourism awareness within the Belizean community, emphasizing how the industry benefits them and how to do their part to enhance visitors’ experience.
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