The government of Belize is entering the third phase of a tourism reopening strategy and Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport will reopen on August 15, 2020, Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced late last week.
On that date, open entry will apply for chartered flights, private aviation and the limited reopening of international leisure travel for visitors staying at approved hotels only. The first group of properties to reopen all will be "full-service" and have met the government's new "Tourism Gold Standard."
Though dates haven't been announced for phases four and five, phase four will see the full reopening of the overnight tourism sector. Phase five will involve the return of cruise ships.
Here's what we know so far...
Enhanced Health/Safety Protocols
Enhanced health and safety protocols for hotels were also approved by Jose Manuel Heredia, Belize's minister of tourism and civil aviation. These protocols serve as the foundation for the destination’s newest “Tourism Gold Standard” recognition program for hotels, restaurants and tour operators.
This nine-point program is designed to enhance the tourism industry’s health and safety standards with new behaviors and procedures to ensure employees and travelers are confident in the cleanliness and safety of Belize’s tourism product.
Among the new standards for hotels and resorts are the following:
- Social distancing and the use of face masks while in public spaces
- Online check-in/out, contactless payment systems and automated ordering/booking systems
- Hand sanitizing stations across the property
- Enhanced room cleaning and increased sanitizing of public spaces and high touch surfaces
- Daily health checks for guests and employees
- Designated "Isolation/Quarantine rooms" for suspected COVID-19 cases and action plans for handling suspected employees or guests
Tours, Archaeological Sites and National Parks
Here are new protocols for tours, archaeological sites and national parks:
- New capacity restrictions for all tourism sites will ensure social distancing can be maintained
- Smaller tour groups will provide a more intimate tour experience
- Sites and parks will manage tours by appointment—limiting the number of people on site
- Tour equipment will receive enhanced sanitizing
Belize Tourism Board (BTB) said in its press statement: "Although limited in scope, this phased approach allows for the industry to reopen responsibly, to test new entry protocols, and to allow for adjustments as necessary to ensure the wellbeing of Belizeans and visitors. As the country reopens for travel, Belize wants to assure travelers and residents that hotels and restaurants will be cleaner and safer than ever before."
Travelers Should Know
According to the BTB press release, because of proper management and containment efforts applied during the height of the pandemic, Belize has had more than 50 days of a COVID-19-free environment. It also said that "ongoing efforts will offer vacation opportunities with minimal risk of contracting COVID-19 while in Belize."
In addition, Belize has a low population density and is only a short distance by air from major U.S. cities. "The destination is well-poised for post-COVID-19 travel," BTB's release said.
All travelers to Belize will be required to adhere to health and safety measures implemented by the government, including social distancing, hand sanitizing, proper hygiene and the wearing of face masks in public spaces.
Here are other air travel requirements that travelers should know about:
- All passengers traveling to Belize will be required to download the Belize Health App and complete the required information prior to boarding the flight to Belize
- A QR code with a unique ID number will be returned to the passenger, and will be used for contact tracing while in Belize
- Passengers are encouraged to take a COVID PCR test within 72 hours of travel to Belize
- As a part of the pre-travel process, the passenger should start by booking his or her flight and selecting a hotel that's permitted to reopen, as the country's reopening of hotels will be a phased approach
Phased Hotel Reopening Plan
Hotels that are selected to open first will have achieved the "Tourism Gold Standard" Certificate of Recognition, as well as provide "full service" to guests. Thus, these hotels can provide all amenities and, in doing so, can contain guests on the property and minimize opportunities for guest interaction within the local community.
These hotel amenities include: transportation available for pick-up/drop-off services from/to the airport; access to a restaurant on property; a pool or access to a beach; and ability to provide isolated tours, limited to that property's guests only.
Belize's statement stressed: "Passengers are therefore encouraged to book Gold Standard approved hotels." A list of the Gold Standard approved hotels will be available at www.travelbelize.org in the coming weeks.
Passengers that provide certification of a negative test result from a COVID-19 PCR test done within 72 hours of travel, will be allowed immediate entry into Belize via a ‘fast track’ lane. Passengers that do not provide a negative COVID-19 test, must test upon arrival in Belize, at the passenger’s expense. A negative test result will allow entry into Belize. Passengers who test positive for COVID-19 at the Belize International Airport will be placed in mandatory quarantine for a minimum period of 14 days at the passenger’s expense.
All visitors to Belize will be required to:
- Wear a mask during the entire landing, deplaning and arrival process, and while inside the airport
- Undergo temperature checks using non-contact digital infrared thermometers or thermal imaging cameras
- Adhere to social distancing guidelines in all queues for health checks, immigration and customs inspections
- Follow and respond to the comprehensive, pro-active, contact tracing guidelines to facilitate appropriate and rapid response from health officials, should COVID-19 symptoms develop
- Use sanitizing stations to sanitize hands frequently and facilitate other health screening requirements on arrival
At the Airport
The Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport also has implemented enhanced cleaning and sanitization measures:
- Installation of barriers and sneeze guards between passengers and immigration and customs officers
- Hand sanitizing stations throughout the terminal building to assist with proper hand hygiene
- Floor markers placed six feet apart to promote social distancing and assist passengers in lining up
- Sanitization of passenger luggage prior to transfer into the terminal building
Airport Departure Rules
Residents and visitors departing from Belize will also see new enhanced health and safety measures implemented. Some of these new measures include:
- Limiting entry into the terminal building to ticketed passengers only
- Mandatory use of face masks at all times while in the terminal building
- Safety barriers installed at check-in counters and the Immigration area
- Social distancing to protect passengers