Belizan short course

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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 local services.

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 nation.

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 warrant."

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 Belizan coastline.

    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?

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