Hurricane Earl Damage Threatens To Impact Thriving Belize Tourism
Photo by Brian Major
Belize’s National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) declared “all clear” Thursday after Hurricane Earl passed over the country Wednesday and early Thursday, causing “major damage countrywide” according to NEMO and Belize media reports.
Online newspaper and Facebook posts show flooded streets, downed trees, destroyed and damaged buildings and trash-strewn tourist sites around the country in areas including San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Belize City, Ladyville, Belize River Valley, Orange Walk and Belmopan. Flash flooding was also reported in the Cayo district. There are no reports of fatalities.
Phillip Goldson International Airport re-opened Thursday but cruise ships calls for the week have been canceled. Earlier this week Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. adjusted itineraries initially scheduled to visit Belize City. Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Lines are also scheduled to call in Belize this week.
NEMO officials also report widespread electrical power outages. Ministry of Works officials are clearing debris from main highways and priorities include “search and rescue, medical care, sheltering and looking after people affected, restoration of utilities [and] inspection of airports and seaports.”
Hurricane Earl is poised to interrupt what had been another year of strong tourism growth in Belize. Overnight visitor arrivals between January and June of 2016 totaled 213,430, a 16.5 percent increase over the same period last year, according to Belize Tourism Board (BTB) data. The figure also represents the first 200,000-plus visitor first half the destination has ever recorded.
“All six months of 2016 have seen double-digit increases, led by with January a 24 percent increase, followed by May, with a 19.6 percent increase,” said BTB officials. U.S. travelers represent the lion’s share of Belize visitors at 70 percent; first-half travel to Belize from the US increased 25.9 percent in 2016. European travelers represent 10 percent of Belize visitors, the next highest percentage.
After several years of significant growth Belize posted solid, if not spectacular, cruise ship calls in the first half of 2016. Cruise visitors increased 2.6 percent during the period, including a 16.1 percent increase in the second quarter of 2016.
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