his spring I was invited to address a
gathering of Belize's travel industry, to about the U.S. travel
business and about ways to promote to and work more effectively
with agents in the U.S.
I aimed to say what you would have said if you had been in
Belize City standing before that crowd of enthusiastic providers of
After consulting with the Travel Weekly advisory board, I
traveled south with several themes in mind.
A lot of it boiled down to education -- using brochures, the
Internet, trade events, fam trips, ads and other means to educate
the trade and the public about key attractions and about what it is
like to travel in this small, English-speaking Central American
I said, in part:
"When you market (regardless of medium), press home several
points: English language, proximity to the U.S., the notion of
short trips as well as long ones, peaceful Central American
destination, great Mayan ruins, ecology and wildlife, diving ...
and value for the dollar to the extent that Belizan prices
I also urged service providers to get into as many appropriate
tour packages as possible (with reputable firms that promote
effectively); to ride the coattails of a growing cruise marketplace
to the extent practical; to solicit services of travel
professionals of all types' to be visible in the industry
everywhere possible, including on the Web, and to communicate
frequently with their travel partners.
Aside from any audience benefits, my preparations provided a
short course on Belize for me.
I had been aware of diving opportunities, the wildlife and
Belize's place on the Ruta Maya, but I had not known these
things:It has the Western Hemisphere's longest string of coral reef,
185 miles.Parks and animal sanctuaries cover 40% of the land.The extensive collection of ruins date from the Mayan's Classic
Period (250 to 900).
During my 24 hours in Belize, I took my first-ever helicopter
sightseeing excursion -- wearing a lifejacket, plus a helmet that
weighed as much as my suitcase.
The top sighting was Belize's Blue Hole, a circle of reef that
surrounds a hole 1,000 feet across and 412 feet deep.
And I saw part of that long, long string of reef that parallels
That was a good start on Belizan sightseeing.
Given I am not inclined to put my head under water for long
periods, my choice for a second visit would be Mayan ruins,
wildlife or some of both.
But why does my list of things to do and see keep getting
longer, not shorter?