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Belize's strong visitor arrivals growth continued in the first half of 2019 as the Caribbean destination that also shares a coast with Central America welcomed 284,576 land-based overnight travelers in the year's first six months, a six percent increase compared with 2018 according to Belize Tourism Board data issued this week.
Similarly, Belize's first-half 2019 cruise ship visitors totaled 700,000 arrivals, a 10.8 percent year-over-year increase compared with 2018, said BTB officials. Belize also welcomed an additional seven cruise ship calls in the first half of 2019 compared with the same period in 2018.
The strong first-half totals come despite a slight decline in Belize's land and sea arrivals during June, as the traditionally slower summer season approached. Belize hosted approximately 400 fewer land-based overnight visitors during the month according to BTB officials. Belize also hosted 18,000 fewer cruise ship travelers during the period compared with June of 2018.
Belize has emerged in recent years as one of the Caribbean's fastest-growing tourist destinations. The country's overnight arrivals have doubled in the last decade, from 232,249 visitors in 2009 to 489,261 in 2018. Belize also hosted 1.21 million cruise passengers in 2018, a 19.1 percent increase over the previous year.
Despite the strong March arrivals, Belize's Central Bank expects travel to the country to decline slightly in 2019 after a record-setting performance last year. In a March address, Dean Barrow, Belize's prime minister said, "The increase in tourist arrivals will not be as great in 2019 as 2018's record performance.
Nevertheless, Barrow added he expects Belize's economy and tourism industry to outperform the Belize Central Bank's "conservative" forecast.
Belize is distinguished by its outstanding natural environment, which includes a 185-mile long barrier reef, rainforests, caves and secluded beaches. The archipelago also features a mix of diverse cultures, distinctive cuisine, and extensive Mayan archeological sites, along with unique marine and wildlife.
Belize is also benefitting from new hotel and cruise port developments. Last year Four Seasons announced plans for the development of Caye Chapel, a private island in Belize featuring magnificent oceanfront estates, private residences and overwater bungalows.
Marriott's Autograph Collection brand is expanding into Belize with Alaia, a boutique resort on Ambergris Caye island. The property is expected to open in 2020.
Meanwhile, Norwegian Cruise Line's Harvest Caye development near the village of Placencia has played a strong role in making Belize the Caribbean's seventh-largest cruise port based on annual arrivals.
BTB recently completed the 2018 Travel & Tourism Statistics Digest, an annual compilation of statistics on the country's tourism industry. The digest is available on the BTB website.
Brian Major is Managing Editor for Digital Publications & Guides/Caribbean.
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