BURRELL BOOM VILLAGE, Belize -- The ministry of tourism and civil aviation in Belize, in collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), officially launched the Sustainable Tourism Program II in a kick-off workshop on March 8-10, 2016, in Burrell Boom Village.
In October 2015, the IDB’s board of executive directors approved a US$15 million loan facility and, in January 2016, a loan agreement was executed between the IDB and the government of Belize for this new program.
Tourism continues to be one of Belize’s most important economic sectors, contributing 15 percent of total direct GDP and generating US$747 million in foreign exchange earnings in 2014. It also represents 35 percent of total exports of goods and service and contributes one out of every six jobs for the nation.
The first Sustainable Tourism Program (STP I) focused on consolidation of the destinations of Ambergris Caye, Placencia, Belize City and San Ignacio and generated the National Sustainable Tourism Master Plan 2030 (NTSMP).
Following the implementation of STP I in 2013, the government of Belize and the IDB collaborated on a second Sustainable Tourism Program (STP II), through an extensive planning process.
STP II is designed to support the implementation of the NSTMP in new and emerging destinations: the Corozal District, Toledo District/Punta Gorda, the Mountain Pine Ridge/Chiquibul/Caracol complex, and Caye Caulker.
The program will increase tourism expenditures, employment and income; promote disaster and climate resilience and environmental sustainability in tourism destinations; and create enabling conditions for private sector investment in overnight tourism.
A key component of the project aims to expand and restore visitor facilities at archaeological sites, including a state-of-the-art museum at Caracol, and to support the development of nature-based tourist attractions and services in the selected destinations.
Additional major infrastructure upgrades in the destinations are programmed to support tourism development in municipalities, rural areas, and protected areas.
STP II is the first tourism loan approved by the IDB that systematically mainstreams biodiversity and ecosystem services.
“Mainstreaming biodiversity in tourism development will contribute to a shift towards informed management of social and ecological systems," said IDB project team leader Sybille Neunninghoff.
The ministry of tourism and civil aviation and the bank have partnered on sustainable tourism projects for 20 years. Between 1998 and 2015, the bank's investment in the sector, which includes three loans and 15 grants, amounted to US$43 million.
The project launch brought together tourism stakeholders and local beneficiaries to discuss the key elements of the program and the proposed activities.