Monday, July 15, 2024

BTIA goes ‘Green” for Greater Profits


Belize tourism must protect the natural environment which is our prime attraction, and will help to market Belize as a sustainable destination, avowed John Burgos, President of the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA), as the BTIA launched its Sustainable Tourism Project at the Belize Best Western Biltmore Plaza Hotel in Belize City on Friday morning, May 31.
The BTIA plans to lead the way with a “No Littering” campaign to complement other policies which promote cultural change such as the recently enacted legislation to ban single-use, non-biodegradable plastics, particularly polystyrene utensils and styrofoam containers, and Government’s moratorium on Offshore Oil Exploration. The Association plans to cultivate more partnerships between the private and public sector, working towards sustainable tourism. They hope to strengthen the support from the various government departments involved in environmental protection, notably the Department of the Environment, the Solid Waste Management Authority, Coastal Zone Management Agency, the Belize Tourist Board, Ministries of Natural Resources, and Tourism and Civil Aviation for better partnerships with non-governmental agencies and other tourism business interests.
The goals of this initiative are to change how we do business in Belize to promote the green and blue economy model. The project will encourage that the laws of Belize and all pertinent regulations are adequately enforced at all destinations. The objective is to increase the number of resorts, where the management is trained in sustainable tourism. They also aim to reduce the carbon footprint from hotels, restaurants and tour operators. Another goal is for more tourist resorts to implement sustainable practices, to increase in the number of “green” certified properties in Belize, to help in marketing their properties for other economic benefits.
The project aims to improve the environmental health of our destination and especially the Belize Barrier Reef System World Heritage Site. The objective is to establish Belize as a sustainable tourism destination, both regionally and globally.
The BTIA’s plan has four key components. They first plan to conduct an eco-audit to establish certain baseline data, which will identify the level of sustainability and eco-practices in Belize’s main tourism destinations and enterprise. The idea is to determine what financial savings can be achieved; as the tourism sector modifies and modernizes its equipment and practices to minimize the human footprint on local ecosystems, to allow these to become more resilient.
The BTIA also hopes to identify what sustainability practices are already in place at destinations and businesses around the country. To accomplish this, the project will measure key indicators such as: water quality, carbon emissions, energy and water usage, and solid waste management practices. The project monitoring will also assess and calculate the overall benefit to the environment and to the Meso-American Reef system.
The Association will begin a national campaign to promote the best practices for sustainable tourism to the industry professionals to increase the number of enterprises which adopt and follow these practices. To this end a Sustainable Tourism Unit will be established under the BTIA, to raise awareness of the benefits of sustainable practices, and this will incorporate a training component, and a method of self-assessment.
A third component of the plan is a certification programme to increase the number of tourism enterprises which become certified in sustainable tourism practices from an accredited certification body. To this end, the BTIA will identify and partner with an internationally accredited and recognized certification agency, and lobby with financial institutions to support tourism businesses and properties, as they implement the practices to achieve sustainability certification.
The BTIA members present also heard from Anthony Mai, who heads the Environmental Compliance, Monitoring and Enforcement Unit, within the Department of the Environment. He outlined the present framework of laws which protect the environment, and how each new development must present and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP) to minimize the resort’s impact on the environment. He also described what his unit does to monitor that the property developers are following through with the ECP, using the Harvest Caye development as an example
Going green does pay off, explained Dr. Craig Hayes as he described the experience of the development on the Turneffe Flats, which has achieved Green Globe certification, and how this is helping them market the property.

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