Chaa Creek and Travel Pulse Agree That Belize is Now “On The Radar"

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While The Lodge at Chaa Creek agrees with a recent Travel Pulse article that once-sleepy Belize has become a mainstream tourist destination, the real story is that its impressive growth incorporated responsible tourism and environmental sustainability, according the Belizean eco resort’s owners.

Belize's Magnificant Half Moon Caye

Endless tracts of pristine rainforest and a stunning Caribbean coastline continue to attract travellers to Belize

Belize is blessed with stunning landscapes, near perfect weather, huge tracts of pristine rainforest and a sparkling Caribbean coastline

The Lodge at Chaa Creek’s co-owner and marketing director said that a recent Travel Pulse article describing Belize’s ascendancy as one of the world’s top travel destinations gives an accurate description of the little Caribbean country’s big impact on global tourism.

But, according to Lucy Fleming, while the descriptions as “once sleepy” and “at times explosive visitor growth” are apt, they tell only part of Belize’s story.

“Belize certainly has transformed from a sleepy little backwater that hardly anyone had heard of to one of the most desirable tourism destinations in the world, but I think the real story is that this has been accomplished within a framework of environmental responsibility and responsible tourism,” Ms Fleming said.

As a young couple, Mick and Lucy Fleming first established Chaa Creek as a family farm in the 1970s, where they both began promoting responsible tourism and environmentally sustainable travel, practices Ms Fleming continued to endorse during her tenure as president of the Belize Tourism Industry Association.

“Many of us involved in the development of tourism in Belize saw a real opportunity to promote an environmentally sound industry. Belizean tourism only really took off after independence in 1981, so we had a relatively fresh product and a blank canvass to work with. There was a certain amount of youthful idealism in both the private and public sectors at the time, as well as a growing international green movement that we tapped into.

“Of course, there were people who thought rigorously green practices and strong economic development were incompatible, but now, over thirty years down the track, we’re happy to say we proved them wrong.

“As this recent Travel Pulse article shows, the proof is in the pudding,” Ms Fleming said.

The February 29 2016 article, “Is Belize Officially On the Mainstream Tourism Radar?” begins by saying, “Once-sleepy Belize has witnessed at-times explosive visitor growth, changing this previously small-scale travel destination into one increasingly on the radar for a wider scope of travellers.”

Author Brian Major continues by quoting figures from the Belize Tourism Board indicating that Belize hosted 341,125 overnight visitors in 2015, up 6.2 per cent from 2014, and representing the highest total in the country’s history. He also quotes the Caribbean Tourism Organisation figures that place Belize among the ten most visited Caribbean cruise ship destinations.

Ms Fleming said that such dramatic growth in a small developing nation whose tourism industry began with a miniscule marketing budget shows that travellers are attracted to green operations and practices. However, a high level of quality must be maintained in accommodation, amenities and service, she added.

“The challenge has always been to provide a high-quality product with as little negative impact to the environment and society as possible. In fact, we believe that tourism should actually contribute to the betterment of both the land and local communities.

“Chaa Creek for example, has for years had our Chaa Creek Cares initiative in place, where ten per cent of all room revenue goes directly into environmental and social projects. We also have a strong educational component to raise awareness among students, local people and visitors about Belize’s rich natural and cultural heritage. Our Belize Natural History Centre is also a popular attraction that’s a valuable learning resource for thousands of people each year,” she added.

Ms Fleming stressed that other Belizean eco-resorts, including Chaa Creek’s Caribbean partners in their popular “Jungle and Beach” all-inclusive Belize vacation packages, share a green ethos that contributes to a national framework for sustainable development.

“Chaa Creek is just one of many stakeholders in Belizean tourism who recognise the importance and benefits of sustainable development. Resorts, hotels, tour operators, dive shops and others share an appreciation of what we have as well as the need to protect it, and I’m sure that’s one of the reasons behind Belize’s impressive growth in recent years.

“Belize is blessed with stunning landscapes, near perfect weather, huge tracts of pristine rainforest and a sparkling Caribbean coastline, as well as having a very friendly English speaking populace that’s educated and industrious. We now have improved infrastructure, a service oriented culture, a lively arts and music scene and increasingly sophisticated dining.

“Given all of that, Belize’s growth as a mainstream destination may not be surprising. But consider that this progress has occurred alongside environmental sustainability and responsible tourism, and you get a picture of what makes Belize unique and attractive to so many people.

“It also says a lot about today’s travellers, and certainly bodes well for the future. If this is what mainstream tourism looks like, we’re happy to be part of it,” Ms Fleming said.

The Lodge at Chaa Creek is a multi award winning eco resort set within a 400-acre private nature reserve along the banks of the Macal River in Belize.


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Mark Langan

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