Last updated: 01:06 PM ET, Thu September 08 2016

Belize Hoteliers Question 'Insane' Hotel Standard Amendments

Hotel & Resort | Brian Major | September 07, 2016

Belize Hoteliers Question 'Insane' Hotel Standard Amendments

The Belizean Nirvana hotel in Placencia. (Photo by Brian Major)

Proposed changes to the Belize Tourism Board (BTB)’s National Classification System for Accommodations are disturbing some hoteliers in this once-sleepy Caribbean destination in the midst of a significant visitor surge.

While BTB’s proposed changes seek to “improve minimum standards for hotels and tourist accommodations in Belize,” the amendments include language some operators find “just insane,” in the words of one hotelier.

Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) chapters provided BTB with detailed input in July aid Sharyn Brinker, owner of Mariposa Jungle Lodge and member of the group, which represents Belize hoteliers. A version of the amendments is expected to be implemented by December.

BTIA chapter officials are currently reviewing the proposed changes and are expected to issue a formal response in October said Brinker.  The changes are intended to amend existing regulations, not craft new ones. “The official BTIA position is we are working with BTB to create better standards,” she said.

Yet, some of the proposals extend beyond area of safety, security, health and operational competency straying into areas of marketing and merchandising—elements which distinguish one property from another, said Brinker.  

“We have no quarrel with safety and health, or customary standards like the posting of rates,” she said in an interview with TravelPulse. “But some of the measures are just insane. The result is regulation that’s arbitrary and inconsistent.”

In a letter to the San Pedro Sun, Brinker observed that “BTB proposes to regulate the furnishings and decorations in hotel rooms, the role of personnel, the color of linens, and literally hundreds of items that are beyond the purview of reasonable or typical regulation.”

For example, the proposed changes stipulate that “if a facility has a bar, bakery or pastry products must be provided” and “anyone that serves meals must offer a daily menu with at least two choices per course,” Brinker said.

In a destination that features numerous jungle lodges offering secluded experiences in natural environments, the proposed changes incredibly stipulate that to “qualify as a licensed resort, a facility must offer color TV with remote control and cable or satellite service.” Brinker said another proposal would require all nature hikes to be conducted on flat ground.

“The regulation of tourism facilities should be limited to health, safety and emergency issues, all with due regard to the realities of the marketplace and the current Belize infrastructure,” said Brinker, who estimated “98 percent” of BTIA’s membership is opposed to proposed changes do not address health, safety and security issues.

“Many of the items on the checklist are not relevant criteria for renewing or obtaining a license,” said Judy duPlooy, president of BTIA’s Cayo Chapter, in a San Pedro Sun report. She said the proposed regulations “far exceed reasonable requirements for an extremely diverse marketplace.”

A BTB officials quoted in the San Pedro Sun report confirmed a final decision has not yet been made on the proposed changes.  “The purpose of us having these consultations is to obtain feedback from all vectors to enhance, as well as upgrade the services and quality of the standards,” he said.

Belize has been the scene of surging visitor growth in recent years. The country hosted 341,124 visitor arrivals in 2015, a 6.2 percent increase over 2014. Belize’s visitor arrivals have increased 35.3 percent since 2003 according to Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) statistics.

Belize is also a fast-growing cruise destination, hosting 957,975 cruise ship arrivals in 2015, eighth among Caribbean destinations tracked by CTO. 

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