BTB’s “Safety Corridor” measures raise concern among industry stakeholders

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

On the evening of September 22nd, the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) announced Phase Three of the country’s re-opening plan, which includes a measure to manage the transmission of COVID-1.  The BTB issued a press release detailing a number of guidelines, including those to be followed by tourists when visiting the country. Titled ‘Safety Corridor Process Flow Guidelines,’ the press release detailed the process that foreign visitors must go through from the moment they arrive until their departure. Some of these mandate that tourists be confined to their hotel property and could be fined for breaching this mandatory confinement.

According to BTB’s Phase Three temporary measure, when tourists/visitors arrive in Belize, they will receive a golden wristband with the words ‘Welcome to Belize.’ This will make it easy to identify them as visitors while in the country. Their pre-booked accommodation must be a certified ‘Gold Standard Hotel’ by BTB, and they are to be transported from the Philip Goldson International Airport (PGIA) by approved transportation, in the case for Ambergris Caye and other destinations via one of the local airlines.

Guests will be required to download the Belize Health App, which is now available for Android and iOS devices. Apple users can find the Health App in the App Store, and Android users can download from the BTB website. For more information, click here: This is required for a daily health monitoring exercise.

At the time of check-in, guests will be subject to a temperature scan, and their unique ID from the Health App will be logged. The fact that guests will not be allowed to leave their hotels requires Gold Standard Hotels to promote and plan scheduled activities to guarantee visitors a Belizean experience. Hotels are to provide all services needed by the guest, including entertainment (cultural presentations, live performances), swimming pools, and restaurants onsite. If the guests want to order food from a restaurant outside of the property, it will be delivered to the hotel following strict safety protocols. Meanwhile, only tours with accredited Gold Standard Tour Operators can be booked through the hotel.

Penalty for breaching Safety Corridor regulations

The BTB’s release stated that any guest found outside of their Gold Standard Hotel without the presence of an approved tour operator would violate their regulations. The note continued saying that such persons must be reported to the police immediately. Penalty for such breach will be levied on the guests, the hotel, and even employees. The San Pedro Sun reached out to the BTB to elaborate on the penalties, but they mentioned that it is a topic that is still under discussion.

BTIA addresses the Prime Minister

On September 21st, the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) issued a letter to the Prime Minister Right Honourable Dean Barrow on the matter and suggested these guidelines and a different strategy to contain COVID-19 be considered. Those copied in included Mr. Manuel Heredia Jr. – Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Dr. Marvin Manzanero- Director of Health Services, Mr. Yashin Dujon – CEO of Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Mr. Andre Carrillo – Belize Network of Non-Governmental Organizations representative, the National Oversight Committee (NOC), Mr. Ted Tejada –  President of the Belize Hotel Association, Mrs. Karen Bevans – Director of Tourism and BTIA Board of Directors.

The BTIA letter indicated that the situation has changed radically during the past six months. However, they believe that the strategy to address the pandemic has not. They pointed out the country’s daily new infection rate, noting that Belizeans are at least as likely as tourists to be infected with the virus. The other issue brought up was the fact that, while every visitor is screened, a majority of Belizeans are allegedly not being tested. “By insisting on a complex set of protocols [Safety Corridor Process Flow Guidelines] to even get into the country, might we be needlessly discouraging most tourists from even trying to visit Belize?” a part of the letter said. “By keeping tourists who run the airport gauntlet and are virtual prisoners in their Gold Standard hotels, are we really providing them with the type of vacation experience that commensurates with Belize’s enviable and hard-earned brand?” The letter also questioned the suggestion that Belizean hotel guests staying at the same Gold Standard accommodation are free to move around as they please, while foreign guests cannot.

Suggestions from the BTIA

The BTIA suggested to the Prime Minister that the arrival process at the PGIA should be simplified. In other words, if a visitor arrives with a negative test they are processed through immigration just like normal or given a rapid test upon arrival, with results given on-the-spot or sent to the visitor or hotel. The need for downloading the health app was questioned in the note, and the government was asked to allow international visitors, who are confirmed COVID-19 free, full freedom of movement around the country.

Also, all tourism services providers (hotels, tour operators, restaurants, car rental, transportation companies and guides) should be required to meet the requirements for Gold Standard certification in order to operate freely. In addition, BTB was asked to implement a major campaign to enforce existing mask-wearing and social distancing rules for everyone across the country. BTIA asked for no discrimination between locals and tourists alike.

The BTIA stated that such recommendations are based on the principle that a specific strategy in any situation, needs to be re-visited regularly. At press time, there is no confirmation of any response from Prime Minister Barrow.

Ambergris Caye Stakeholders weigh in

A couple of the approved Gold Standard accommodations on Ambergris Caye shared their thoughts with The San Pedro Sun about the Safety Corridor terms.


In speaking with owner of Portofino, Jan van Noord, he said that he welcomes the Safety Corridor measures announced by the BTB in the effort to contain COVID-19. Noord added that they are ready to welcome their first international guests and are working on entertainment activities. Also given their location near the popular snorkelling/diving site called Mexico Rocks, guests can for sure have a great time at Portofino.

Grand Caribe

Another Gold Standard property, Grand Caribe, shared different thoughts about BTB’s Safety Corridor measures. The general manager at Grand Caribe said although they count with all the necessary services (three restaurants, six pools, beach, water sport activities and manicured grounds), for someone to have a great experience, confinement may not be the right decision. When it comes to the potential penalties on the property, guests or employees, Grand Caribe’s general manager said that guests should be allowed to move freely and have their choice of experience. As long as a tourist tests negative, he or she should be treated fairly and allowed to move around with precautionary measures such as the wearing of masks and practicing social distancing.

Belize prepares to welcome international visitors on October 1st, when the Philip Goldson International Airport re-opens. Following the successful implementation of Phase Three of the re-opening plan, the last phase of the process will see all businesses in the tourism sector allowed to cater to tourists. That date is unknown at this time.


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