Belize Reports Visitor Increase, New Tourism Minister

Belize, the only English-speaking nation in Central America, just announced an increase in visitor numbers for 2007 and a new minister of tourism. Arrivals at Belize's main point of entry, Philip Goldson International Airport, increased 2.7 percent last year, the Belize Tourism Board reported. U.S. visitors totaled 151,616, which means American tourism grew more than 70 percent in a decade (87,991 Americans visited Belize in 1998).

Visitors from Canada rose 6.7 percent year over year in 2007, while European arrivals have increased an average of 3.5 percent annually since '98, according to the tourism board. Hotel revenues for 2007 shot up 13.8 percent over 2006, but cruise passengers dropped 12 percent. The decrease was attributed to Hurricanes Dean and Felix, which caused the cancellation of five cruise ship calls last August and September that would have brought in approximately 16,000 passengers.

In other travel news from Belize, Manuel Heredia Jr. was appointed minister of tourism and civil aviation by Dean Barrow, who was elected prime minister of Belize last week. Heredia's post is part of the PM's 16-member Cabinet. He is a former mayor of San Pedro and area representative for Belize Rural South.

"I look forward to furthering the growth of tourism by expanding economic opportunities for all stakeholders and by building strong partnerships with the private sector," Heredia said. For more information, visit http://www.travelbelize.org. (AO & JP)