Advocacy Updates

The Belize Tourism Industry Association as part of its mission and vision, represents a unified voice which advocates for issues that benefit its members, influences tourism policy, legislation and marketing for the sustainable development of the industry and improved the quality of the visitor experience. The BTIA is also legally recognized as the entity that represents the tourism private sector. This recognition allows for BTIA to have the President, Board Members and the Executive Director to hold official seats on Government agencies, committees and civil society to voice the interests of its members. You can appreciate the most recent advocacy efforts and works of the BTIA below:

PREAMBLE

As part of what it calls “measured consolidation”, the Government of Belize has proposed the following revenue measures:

1) require all statutory boards to contribute 10% of their 2017/18 income to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and 2) amend the Conservation Fee that is charged as part of departure tax.

The Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) believes that an in-depth study of the impacts and effects of these revenue measures, along with consultations with industry stakeholders, should have been held prior to GOB’s proposal to effect these measures.
GOB’s proposal to increase Departure Tax by increasing the Conservation (PACT) Fee from $7.50 to $40.00 is merely focused on directing revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.  This action does not address the need for increased revenue for the management of our national parks and protected areas.

CONCERNS

1.Departure Tax Increase

The potential negative impacts to the tourism industry through an increase in the departure tax have not been properly analysed nor consulted with industry stakeholders.  Belize is already a tourist destination with high costs in comparison to the region.  Belize must remain competitive, not more expensive as a destination.

2.Statutory Bodies’ 10% contribution to the Consolidated Revenue Fund

With the proposed amendments, GOB will receive 10% of the income of these bodies, such as the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT), as a so-called “development contribution”. This measure would be in direct conflict with the purposes of the Trust which, as Belize’s national conservation trust, are to redistribute the revenue throughout the National Protected Areas System by providing funding for projects that support conservation and promote environmentally sound management of Belize’s natural and cultural resources.  The financial needs for the management and protection of our protected areas system are increasing on a yearly basis. The proposed national budget does not address these urgent needs to protect the basis of our tourism product. In fact, the “development contribution” will significantly reduce the funding available for the important work of statutory bodies such as PACT, which was established with a specific purpose to preserve the integrity of protected areas in Belize.

3.Negative impacts to Growth in Tourism

At its current level, the Departure Tax is already expensive for a family or group of visitors coming into Belize. If GOB gets its way, Belize would have one of the highest levels of Departure Tax in the Central American and Caribbean region. Countries like the Bahamas and Costa Rica have rescinded proposals for increasing departure fees due to the negative impacts it would generate to their tourism industry. Belize needs to take heed.

4.Impacts on the Tourism Industry

a. Any additional cost directed towards tourists could result in negative impacts to overnight arrivals and to the tourism industry. Countries within the region keep investing heavily in promoting their destinations and keeping costs competitive and Belize needs to follow suit.  In 2016 there was an increase in overnight arrivals of 16%, which should reflect a substantial increase in overall spending and revenues to Belize.

b. The BTB as a statutory body would also be subjected to a 10% deduction from its yearly income to be paid to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.  This will reduce the BTB budget which should be focused on marketing Belize worldwide and improving our tourism product. Such “development contributions” as proposed would reduce the ability of the BTB to perform its mandate for the tourism industry.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. The BTIA recommends that the proposed amendment to increase the Conservation (PACT) Fee (and consequently the Departure Tax) be withdrawn.

  2. The BTIA recommends that PACT be exempted from the Statutory Bodies Development Contribution Act 2017, and that the proposed PACT (Amendment) Act 2017 be rescinded.

  3. The BTIA calls for GOB to consult with stakeholders about incentives and initiatives that will increase and promote the growth of the tourism industry in Belize without raising taxes.

  4. The BTIA recommends for GOB to establish a policy that will allow visitors from Mexico to travel to Belize for up to 3 days with a Belize-issued tourist card or national identification card and be exempted from paying Departure Tax. This will promote tourism arrivals to Belize from the huge Mexican market.

 

Submitted: 15 March 2017

Submitted by:

Belize Tourism Industry Association

#10 North Park Street
P.O. Box 62
Belize City, Belize

Office #: (501) 227-1144

Email: execdirector@btia.org

Press Release: 

The Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) is currently conducting a comprehensive review of the improvements to the minimum standards for Hotels and Tourist Accommodations in Belize that are being proposed by the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) as set out in Act (No. 12 of 1997).The BTB is in the process of conducting destination visits regarding the National Classification System for Accommodations. The intention is to have new legislation in place by the end of 2016 or early 2017 to enact the proposed minimum standards.

The BTIA Board of Directors is currently reviewing the proposed minimum standards and national classification system for accommodations, with input from BTIA’s ten (10) destination chapters countrywide.  A BTIA Board subcommittee was set up to coordinate this effort, with the support of the BTIA Secretariat. All members through their respective chapters are being encouraged to review the standards and offer their point of view for consideration.

BTIA will prepare a report along with recommendations which it will submit by mid-July 2016 to the BTB for consideration and incorporation into the proposed changes to the legislation related to minimum standards for Hotels and Tourist Accommodations.  BTIA anticipates tht this comprehensive dialogues will result in a National Classification System for Accommodations that will satisfy its members and will help to bring the industry to another notch in its continued development.

Our members will be informed on a weekly basis via our e-bulletins.

Submitted: 30 June 2016

Submitted by:

Belize Tourism Industry Association

#10 North Park Street
P.O. Box 62
Belize City, Belize

Office #: (501) 227-1144

Email: execdirector@btia.org

Press Release:

On May 11th, 2017, BTIA representatives held a meeting with two Airbnb officials, Mr. Shawn Sullivan and Mr. Carlos Munoz, who are responsible for Airbnb’s public policy division for Latin America and the Caribbean.  BTB’s Business Development Manager, Sean Tang, also participated in the meeting. Airbnb is the number one online marketplace and hospitality service that allows people to lease or rent short-term lodging including vacation rentals, apartment rentals, homestays, hostel beds, or hotel rooms.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss concerns related to the current negotiations between Airbnb and the Government of Belize via the BTB.  The BTIA representatives focused on the following areas of concern: a.) Taxation, b.) having a level playing field for Hoteliers and Airbnb Hosts, c.) for Airbnb hosts to be required to be registered under the Hotels and Tourist Accommodation (Minimum registration, licensing and operating requirements) Regulations and d.) for Airbnb hosts to meet minimum standards for health, safety and security as required for all registered hoteliers in Belize.

In relation to taxation, the Airbnb officials responded that they are willing to collect Hotel Tax from Airbnb hosts on behalf of the BTB through an agreement with GOB.  The Airbnb officials stated that they understand the concerns of the registered hoteliers about the impacts on their market share of tourists coming to Belize. Airbnb would be willing to offer marketing support to the BTB in order to increase overnight tourist arrivals in Belize.  With regards to the hotel registration being a requirement for Airbnb hosts, the Airbnb officials stated that they cannot request share personal data from hosts, due to United States and European Union privacy regulations.  However, Airbnb is willing to encourage and make all hosts aware of their licensing and taxation obligations.

Airbnb stated the following facts about their services and platform:

  • Airbnb guests stay twice as long and spend twice as much as traditional travelers, supporting neighborhoods) and local business
  • 79% of travelers want to explore a specific neighborhood
  • 91% of travelers want to live like a local
  • 74% of Airbnb properties are outside the main hotel districts
  • Airbnb guest stay 2.1x longer than typical visitors
  • Airbnb guests spend 1.8x more than typical visitors
  • 42% of guest spending is in the neighborhood where they stay

Airbnb statistics for Belize as of May 1, 2017:

  • 600 active hosts in Belize (properties with more than one booking)
  • Average age of host is 47 years
  • 29,000 Inbound arrivals in the past year
  • 4 days is the average length of stay per guest
  • Average of 28 nights hosted per year for a typical listing
  • Active listings by type: 65% entire home rental, 33% private space rental and 2% shared room
  • 85% of guests come from North America
  • 10% of guests come from Europe
  • 3% of guests come from Latin America and 2% come from Australia

Airbnb proposes the following specific benefits to Belize:

  • To work and collaborate with the GOB/BTB to promote tourism to Belize, doubling the number of tourists in the next 2 years;

  • To market the unique and adventurous aspects of Belize through their internet platform;

  • Offers to collect and remit hotel taxes to the BTB on behalf of hosts;

  • Airbnb hosts will be made aware of the benefits of registering with the BTB;

  • A streamlined and modern registration system that recognizes this new sharing economy;

  • Airbnb is willing to share aggregate data to the BTB. This data will provide detailed information about demographics, composition, country of origin, interests and other relevant info associated with hosts and tourists using the Airbnb platform.

The Airbnb representatives presented their willingness to work with the Government of Belize and the private sector, and to promote specific destinations and festivals (events) in Belize using their internet platform.

The BTIA will continue to monitor the Airbnb and other vacation home rentals online platforms and their potential impacts on our tourism industry and members. We will keep our membership informed of related developments.

Submitted: 24 May 2017

Submitted by:

Belize Tourism Industry Association

#10 North Park Street
P.O. Box 62
Belize City, Belize

Office #: (501) 227-1144

Email: execdirector@btia.org

PREAMBLE

The chemical compound Glyphosate (the key ingredient in Roundup) is the number one pesticide used to eradicate weeds in farms in Belize and worldwide. The World Health Organization’s IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen in 2015. The Pesticide Action Network International (PAN) issued a comprehensive report in 2016 stating several long term and chronic effects on the environment, humans and animals worldwide due to the high usage of glyphosate.

The alarming conclusions from international studies and reports about the effects and impacts of glyphosate have been taken into consideration by the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) as a national issue that needs to be given urgent attention.

The Pesticide Control Board, as the entity that oversees and approves the importation of chemicals that support farming practices within the agriculture sector in Belize, should review and consider alternatives to replace glyphosate and the possibility to ban the usage of the harmful substance in Belize.

CONCERNS

  1. Studies have shown that long-term toxicity of glyphosate on humans may cause chronic health, neurological and immune issues, digestive issues and development effects such cancer,infertility, pregnancy problems, birth defects, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, liver diseases and respiratory diseases.

  2. Several epidemiological studies have linked exposure to glyphosate with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, hairy cell leukaemia, multiple myeloma, and DNA damage.

  • Studies have also shown that even low concentrations of glyphosate can damage the liver, kidneys, skin cells and causes ageing and potentially cancer. The residues of glyphosate have been found in human’s breast milk, blood and urine.

  1. One of the most alarming facts is that glyphosate residues have been found in vaccines.

  2. With regards to the environment, glyphosate has equally devastating effects upon the environment, e.g., aquatic effects, soil and plant health, earthworms and beneficial insects, birds and other animals, including livestock and domestic animals.

  3. In plant seeds, glyphosate decreases levels of calcium, magnesium, iron and manganese, “leading to deficiencies in these nutrients in humans who consume foods derived from glyphosate-exposed crops.” Glyphosate is mainly use for the farming of sugar, corn, wheat and soy.

  • Glyphosate exposure is the most likely reason for the epidemic in a new type of kidney disease among young agricultural workers in sugar cane fields in El Salvador and elsewhere in Central America. Furthermore, due to its high use by farmers in Belize, glyphosate contaminates our water sources and supplies. Studies show life-long exposure to glyphosate in animals’ causes liver and kidney dysfunction, greatly increased risk of cancer and shortened lifespan.

  • The alarming die-off of honeybees is linked to record levels of glyphosate use. The animal population needs to be protected; they form a very important role in our ecosystems and way of life.

  1. The wide usage of glyphosate and complete disregard of the negative impacts on the environment, people and wildlife is a matter that has to be recognized and given an adequate level of importance and attention.

  2. The presence of glyphosate in the environment, in our waters, and in our food supply cannot be ignored; statistical data in Belize since 1990 demonstrates an increase of the chronic illnesses associated with glyphosate usage in Belize.

  3. Glyphosate can be considered the most significant environmental toxin, mainly because it is pervasive and it is often handled carelessly due to its perceived nontoxicity. Its manufacturer, Monsanto, continues to disregard the negative impacts it creates on the environment, animals and people.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. The Pesticide Control Board should conduct its own in-house analysis of the international reports about the long-term negative impacts of glyphosate in Belize and worldwide.

  1. Ultimately, the Pesticide Control Board should be considering the complete ban of glyphosate use in Belize. Alternative products and farming practices should begin to be considered.

  2. An awareness and education campaign about the negative impacts of glyphosate should be developed and implemented with local farmers and the public at large in Belize. This will allow for everyone to be aware of the problem and about the possible solutions.

  3. Belize must become a leader in addressing these global problems that have a direct impact on the welfare of its people and the environment. Several countries have already established a ban on glyphosate; Belize should follow suit.

The BTIA aims to bring these facts to the attention of the Government and people of Belize for solutions to this problem to be considered. The welfare of the population and the environment of Belize are of optimum priority to the BTIA.  Belize needs to become a leader in sustainable development and the protection and good stewardship of our environment and ecosystems.

Submitted: 12 June 2017

Submitted by:

Belize Tourism Industry Association

#10 North Park Street
P.O. Box 62
Belize City, Belize

Office #: (501) 227-1144

Email: execdirector@btia.org

PREAMBLE

As part of what it calls “measured consolidation”, the Government of Belize has proposed the following revenue measures:

1) require all statutory boards to contribute 10% of their 2017/18 income to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and 2) amend the Conservation Fee that is charged as part of departure tax.

The Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) believes that an in-depth study of the impacts and effects of these revenue measures, along with consultations with industry stakeholders, should have been held prior to GOB’s proposal to effect these measures.
GOB’s proposal to increase Departure Tax by increasing the Conservation (PACT) Fee from $7.50 to $40.00 is merely focused on directing revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.  This action does not address the need for increased revenue for the management of our national parks and protected areas.

CONCERNS

1.Departure Tax Increase

The potential negative impacts to the tourism industry through an increase in the departure tax have not been properly analysed nor consulted with industry stakeholders.  Belize is already a tourist destination with high costs in comparison to the region.  Belize must remain competitive, not more expensive as a destination.

2.Statutory Bodies’ 10% contribution to the Consolidated Revenue Fund

With the proposed amendments, GOB will receive 10% of the income of these bodies, such as the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT), as a so-called “development contribution”. This measure would be in direct conflict with the purposes of the Trust which, as Belize’s national conservation trust, are to redistribute the revenue throughout the National Protected Areas System by providing funding for projects that support conservation and promote environmentally sound management of Belize’s natural and cultural resources.  The financial needs for the management and protection of our protected areas system are increasing on a yearly basis. The proposed national budget does not address these urgent needs to protect the basis of our tourism product. In fact, the “development contribution” will significantly reduce the funding available for the important work of statutory bodies such as PACT, which was established with a specific purpose to preserve the integrity of protected areas in Belize.

3.Negative impacts to Growth in Tourism

At its current level, the Departure Tax is already expensive for a family or group of visitors coming into Belize. If GOB gets its way, Belize would have one of the highest levels of Departure Tax in the Central American and Caribbean region. Countries like the Bahamas and Costa Rica have rescinded proposals for increasing departure fees due to the negative impacts it would generate to their tourism industry. Belize needs to take heed.

4.Impacts on the Tourism Industry

a. Any additional cost directed towards tourists could result in negative impacts to overnight arrivals and to the tourism industry. Countries within the region keep investing heavily in promoting their destinations and keeping costs competitive and Belize needs to follow suit.  In 2016 there was an increase in overnight arrivals of 16%, which should reflect a substantial increase in overall spending and revenues to Belize.

b. The BTB as a statutory body would also be subjected to a 10% deduction from its yearly income to be paid to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.  This will reduce the BTB budget which should be focused on marketing Belize worldwide and improving our tourism product. Such “development contributions” as proposed would reduce the ability of the BTB to perform its mandate for the tourism industry.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. The BTIA recommends that the proposed amendment to increase the Conservation (PACT) Fee (and consequently the Departure Tax) be withdrawn.

  2. The BTIA recommends that PACT be exempted from the Statutory Bodies Development Contribution Act 2017, and that the proposed PACT (Amendment) Act 2017 be rescinded.

  3. The BTIA calls for GOB to consult with stakeholders about incentives and initiatives that will increase and promote the growth of the tourism industry in Belize without raising taxes.

  4. The BTIA recommends for GOB to establish a policy that will allow visitors from Mexico to travel to Belize for up to 3 days with a Belize-issued tourist card or national identification card and be exempted from paying Departure Tax. This will promote tourism arrivals to Belize from the huge Mexican market.

 

Submitted: 15 March 2017

Submitted by:

Belize Tourism Industry Association

#10 North Park Street
P.O. Box 62
Belize City, Belize

Office #: (501) 227-1144

Email: execdirector@btia.org

The BTIA as an NGO in good standing was able to participate and contribute with the development and establishment of the Belize Network of NGOs to represent the interests of the NGO community.  The Government of Belize supported and granted the legislation that would allow for 13th senator to be elected by the NGO community to sit as part of the Senate and the National Assembly to represent their interests.  Through a rigorous and transparent process, the President of the BTIA was elected as the Senator to represent the NGO community under the auspices of the Belize Network of NGOs.  The election was held on the 10th of January 2017.

BTIA vs Department of the Environment (DOE) and Belize Island Holdings Ltd. (BIHL)
In support of the BTIA membership in Placencia in addressing concerns about the development of a cruise port on Harvest Caye and the negative socioeconomic impacts on the peninsula and its population, lead the BTIA to conduct a judicial review of the project via the Supreme Court of Belize.  The main focus of the Supreme Court case of the BTIA vs Department of the Environment and Belize Island Holdings Ltd was to review the public consultation process as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report process and the laws and regulations under the mandate of the DOE.  The BTIA was successful in challenging the various irregularities and was awarded court costs in compensation.

The BTIA proudly sits as leading member of the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage to preserve and protect the integrity of the Belize Barrier Reef System.  The Coalition has engage in various campaigns to promote our goals and demand actions be taken by the Government of Belize.

Various campaigns:

  • The People’s Referendum
  • Moratorium to prevent offshore oil exploration
  • Consultation Sessions with stakeholders
  • Press releases

In December 2015, the BTIA held a Sargassum Forum with invited guests from Quintana Roo, Mexico, the Caribbean and Belize to present research information and solutions to address sargassum influx in coastal areas.  The forum yielded an official report with valuable information which was presented to the Government of Belize.  As a result, the Government of Belize through the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation created the Sargassum Task Force to develop a national master plan to address the influx of sargassum. The composition of the Sargassum Task Force consists representatives from the private and public sector.

  • BTIA President sits on the Belize Tourism Board
  • BTIA Rep on the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT) Board
  • BTIA Rep on the National Environmental Assessment Committee (NEAC)
  • BTIA Rep on the Tour Operators Committee
  • BTIA Rep on the Civil Society Committee

As a national association, the BTIA has an official seat on the following committees to represent the interests of the membership:

  • Hotels and Tourist Accommodations Minimum Standards Technical Committee
  • Zip line Canopy Systems Minimum Standards Technical Committee
  • Scuba Diving Minimum Standards Technical Committee

The BTIA held a special meeting at its Belize City office to discuss the crime situation in tourist destinations and others parts of Belize.  The focus of the meeting was to address current security issues and concerns, and to discuss strategies to alleviate the crime situation in Belize. The discussion mainly focused on the increasing crime rates at tourist destinations and communities, difficulty of crime victims obtaining a police report, the lack of proper community policing programs, and inadequate communication between the Police and stakeholders.

Minister Aragon and COMPOL Whylie expressed their commitment to improve the performance of the Police formations in each destination and to improve the police report system currently in place.  For its part, the BTIA committed to provide security risk assessment training to its members, assist the Police Department/Tourism Police with customer service training programs, and continue its advocacy to develop and establish programs to reduce crime in Belize.

As an ally and partner with Oceana Belize, the BTIA formed part of the team that create the Eat Right Fish Right program that promotes a sustainable process for the monitoring of fishing practices and the quality of fish served to the public. It was officially launched in February 2016.  Restaurants, hotels and resorts can sign up to the program.