Over the past decade, tourism has emerged as an integral pillar of the Belize economy. At close to 25% of total GDP, tourism is now more than ever a key driver of the Belizean economy. Cruise tourism has contributed significantly to this growth, with an 87% increase in arrivals between 2002-2008. It is estimated that approximately 800,000 day visitors will come to Belize in 2010, all arriving in Belize City, with 60% of total arrivals taking day trips out of the city. While overnight tourism was once the primary form of tourism, it is now 30% of the total tourist visitation numbers. The Belize Tourism Board (BTB) is responding to the rapidly changing tourism environment in the country by revamping its approaches in 2010, starting with the selection of a new director, Seleni Matus, a Belizean with extensive experience in sustainable tourism development. Matus and her board decided to revise how the Belize Tourism Board does business and bring in a team of outside experts to facilitate and bring international expertise to the process.
EplerWood International was selected to advise the BTB on this program of change. EWI undertook the task with a team of experts from Gap Adventures, Sustainable Travel International, and Steve Kroll and Associates. Over the summer of 2010, EWI and partners worked hand in glove with the BTB to create an Action Plan which revises the approach to tourism planning in the country, giving more emphasis to stakeholder involvement in the process, and creating a new set of modernized approaches to marketing, operations, quality assurance, and destination management. EWI will work with BTB on upcoming challenges over the next 2 years.