In light of the challenges posed by sargassum on Belize tourist industry, the Belize Tourism Board has secured assistance for accommodation stakeholders in sargassum affected areas in Belize. This comes on the heels of several site visits conducted last month by a BTB team of senior officials, to assess the areas severely impacted and to consult with owners of affected coastline properties (beachfront properties) and members of the Sargassum Task Force (STF), with the hope of designing a concerted strategy to address the situation.
The BTB’s team included Hon. Manuel Heredia, Minister of Tourism & Civil Aviation, Mr. Einer Gomez, Chairman of the Board of Directors, BTB and Mrs. Karen Bevans, Director of Tourism.
At the conclusion of these visits, the following assistance was approved and will be implemented immediately, to assist those properties which have been most affected by sargassum.
• 2% from the 9% hotel tax due, which is a 22.2% reduction on the monthly accommodation tax returns for all coastline properties affected by sargassum, in the four affected destinations of San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Placencia and Hopkins. This reduction in the monthly accommodation tax is applicable for four consecutive months namely October, November, December 2018 and January 2019.
• In addition, on BTB’s advice, the Government of Belize has agreed that coastline properties in the four affected destinations wishing to import sargassum materials and equipment/machinery, can apply for duty exemption from the Ministry of Finance through the BTB.
• The Government of Belize has agreed to contribute $1.5 million for BTB to assist the municipal bodies in San Pedro, Caulker, Placencia and Hopkins in the containment and control of sargassum.
The BTB is congnizant of the fact that impacted properties and destinations have faced increased operational costs in their clean up efforts, disposal of sargasssum, implementing barriers and in beach reclamation efforts. The BTB therefore welcomes the above measures, which will aid affected properties especially in preparing for the high tourism season.
The BTB urgues all stakeholders and the public to stay tuned for news emanating from the STF on new developments relating to sargassum. The task force is comprised of NEMO, the Fisheries Department, Ministry of Tourism, the BTB, the Coastal Zone Management Authority, Ministry of Health, the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA), the Belize Hotel Association (BHA), stakeholders and representatives of the San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Hopkins and Placencia Village Councils. The STF continues to pursue research and consultations for a long term solution of the sargassum situation.
The BTB also reiterates its unwavering commitment to continuous consultations with valued stakeholders on the issue of sargassum and to ensure that our dynamic tourism industry is always fully protected.