By Ingrid Fernandez
Belize has broken its previous record, set last year, for most tourist arrivals to the country in a single year. This, of course, is welcomed news by the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) after concerns early in 2015, that arrivals had dipped.
According to the BTB, 2015 only saw a total increase of 10,000 more arrivals than 2014, but the increase is good news, nonetheless.
2015 saw 1.299 million tourists, combining overnight and cruise arrivals, in comparison to 2014’s 1.289 million tourist arrivals.
In the figures released this week, the BTB said: “Despite an unsteady first and second quarter, Belize had seven straight months of arrival increases.”
The last quarter of the year showed a record increase of tourist arrivals, with November having the highest percentage increase at 33 percent, compared to the previous year. There was a 19.3 percent increase in September, a 22.1 percent increase in October and a 22.5 percent in December compared to those same months in 2014.
December was the most successful month, with 39,977 overnight arrivals. The BTB said although December is normally a busy month in the tourist industry, “it is the first time in history that a month in overnight arrivals has approached 40,000.”
Last year also ushered in a host of partnerships with new airline operations in the country. In October and December, respectively, South West and COPA airlines launched flights to and from Belize. The start of these new airline operations directly increased arrivals. The BTB said that South American visitors increased by 50.3 percent since COPA’s inaugural flight in December.
The airport continues being the preferred mode of arrival for overnight tourists with 75.02 percent of overnight tourists arriving through the Philip Goldson International Airport (PGIA). There was a seven percent increase in airport arrivals.
Of both arrival types, overnight tourists and cruise passengers, the overnight sector is the only one to have grown. There was a total of 341,125 overnight tourists, a 6.2 percent increase from last year.
The cruise sector, however, though it saw a total of 957,975 cruise passengers coming to the country, this represented a one percent decrease. One cruise ship cancelled its docking in Belize.
One of the two cruise ships with the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), the Divina, could not make it because of engine problems. The other MSC Divina cruise ship called at the Port of Belize on December 31st.
According to the BTB, the three largest markets for tourism continue to be the United States of America (USA), Europe and Canada. Citizens from the USA have consistently made up the bulk of the country’s tourist arrivals and this year, citizens from that country account for 63.1 percent of the total arrivals.
Europeans make up 12 percent of the total, hailing mainly from the United Kingdom, Germany and France. Canadians are the third largest market, accounting for seven percent of all tourists that came to Belize in 2015.