Coronavirus affects the Belize tourism?
Did the Coronavirus affect the Belize tourism? With less than 20 cases total, Belize has effectively combated a first wave of COVID-19. However, Belize was not ready for this blow to our tourism industry. The data from 2019-2020 high season was already lower than previous years when COVID-19 cut our season short and closed our borders March 23, 2020.
Our borders have remained closed and currently (June 16, 2020) have no date reopen the Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport.
A Belizean Perspective on Coronavirus
Imagine us all in March. Everyone working hard during high season, making plans for Easter and summer vacation just around the corner. We had high hopes. Instead, this global pandemic has halted everything. Instead, we have faced extreme lockdowns, curfews, a restriction on buying liquor and limited to only seeing our immediate families and no social gatherings.
Lay-off of Staff
Belize was not ready for this terrible crisis. This country is very small and has limited industries, with tourism being the most significant. Our borders closing has kept foreigners out, who could bring in the virus. We want to protect the health of our people first and foremost. However, without tourism, many people are out of a job. Employers have laid off their staff, closed their places, and many closing for good. Belizeans are hungry and many have left San Pedro, the biggest tourist destination in Belize, for their home towns on the mainland. Retreating back to family land and a slower, cheaper lifestyle. Half of Drift Inn staff stayed on the island, the other half went home to mainland.
Belize Tourism Businesses Shut Down
Thousands of Belizeans stay without a job two months later. After the state of emergency was put out, with the borders being closed there is no money coming in. Restaurants and hotels, tour guides and fishermen were not allowed to be open or work. Not even for the local economy. Now that our restrictions have begun to lift, we are seeing which businesses are emerging to reopen and bring their staff back on, which will wait for the airport to reopen and tourism to return before opening and whose doors will remain closed. Many businesses will not reopen.
Government COVID-19 Relief in Belize
At the beginning of April, the minister announced that $25 million Belize will be dispersed to help the country. Each person who is eligible could receive $150.00 BZ every two weeks. This is clearly not enough to support a family with, but is better than no income at all. Many families and individuals have not received. Local organizations, businesses, and individuals have picked up government slack to provide for our citizens. One initiative is the Ambergris Caye COVID Relief Cookbook which the proceeds from international sales go to feeding programs.