Tuesday, July 16, 2024

SI mandates new policy for tour operators/guides and entry requirements for foreign visitors

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The current COVID-19 regulations under Statutory Instrument No. 119 include specific requirements for foreign tourists entering Belize via the Philip Goldson International Airport (PGIA). The provisions also extend to tour operators and tour guides who must be immunized to provide their services to tourists.

Foreign tourists must make necessary arrangements and reservations with an approved tourism establishment (gold standard hotel) before arriving in the country. Every visitor must produce documentation of such reservations to the immigration officer. If a foreign tourist cannot deliver this documentation, they may be denied entry and required to return to his port of origin at their own expense. If unable to return immediately, they will be put under mandatory quarantine at a government-designated facility at the person’s own expense. This will be for a certain period and at the direction of the current Quarantine Authority and applies to anyone testing positive for the virus as well.

Another requirement is that individuals shall submit to testing regardless of vaccine status against COVID-19 if they do not provide a negative PCR test taken within 96 hours or a rapid test within 48 hours before traveling. However, a child below the age of five is not required to present a PCR or other test for COVID-19 upon arriving in Belize via the PGIA.

Land borders remain closed

Although land borders with Mexico and Guatemala remained closed, visitors entering the country via the land borders will be administered a COVID-19 test at their own expense. The Ministry of Health and Wellness advised that no external PCR or rapid tests will be accepted. Visitors also need to provide proof that they are staying at a gold standard accommodation.

A Belizean returning to Belize at any land port of entry will be allowed entry if that person can prove that they are a Belizean or Belizean permanent resident and is cleared via a COVID-19 test. The person can also be allowed entry if they are returning from abroad with proof of having received urgent medical care, is a Belizean student or permanent resident student, is a resident Belizean diplomat, is a foreign diplomat resident in, and accredited to Belize, is the holder of a valid work permit, is a consultant or specialist technician required to be in Belize to assist in an emergency or on a regular basis, or is a business person with investments in Belize.

Anyone who desires to travel to Belize by land and even sea is advised to apply to the Ministry responsible for foreign affairs or the nearest consulate or Belize embassy for permission to travel back to the country.

Tour Operators and Tour Guides must be vaccinated

The SI mandates that for any tour operator or tour guide to offer their services to tourists, they need to be immunized. According to the regulations, every tour operator and tour guide must present their vaccination card before accessing a tourist site. Failure to do so, entrance shall be refused to the tourist site.

In Ambergris Caye, that is not a problem as most businesses catering to tourism have their staff immunized. Tour operators and stakeholders in the hospitality sector have done their part in encouraging and allowing their team to get their doses of the vaccine against COVID-19. Visitors planning to make Belize their next vacation destination can know that places like Ambergris Caye are one of the municipalities leading the number of vaccinations in Belize.

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