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Belize Makes Landmark Pledge for Conservation

Government pledges to implement a responsible tourism policy for the country

WWF applauds today’s announcement that the government of Belize has agreed to set a responsible tourism policy for the country. The announcement was made during the 3rd International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations in Belmopan, Belize.

“It is the commitment of the Government to be vigilant and monitor and control the development of our tourism product. We should engage the relevant authorities at all times to ensure that our most precious resources, and the natural wonders of Belize, are utilized and protected in a sustainable and responsible way,” said Manuel Heredia, Jr., Belize Minister of Tourism.

“Belize is at a critical point in planning the future of its tourism development, which has historically been based on the use of its outstanding natural and cultural resources,” said conference attendee William Eichbaum, WWF Vice President for Marine and Artic Policy. “As the global economy recovers, Belize has a unique opportunity to assure the future growth of the industry does not come at the expense of these resources.”

Eichbaum also noted that the burgeoning growth of cruise ship visitation to Belize posed a particularly difficult challenge for the country and recommended that a cap be placed on such visitations.

Belize’s tropical forests and coral reefs have made the country a popular tourist destination for more than 300,000 land-based tourists, and 700,000 cruise visitors each year. A 2008 study by the World Resources Institute and WWF found that Belize’s coastal resources – including mangroves – contributed up to $196 million to the economy each year through tourism. However, the overall health of coastal and mangrove areas are in decline and many of Belize’s coral reefs are threatened.

The country has recently received a $13.3 million loan from the Interamerican Development Bank for development of a tourism plan that focuses on four key areas: Belize City, San Ignacio, San Pedro, and Placencia. Together, these four destinations account for about 64 percent of tourism earnings in the country. Successful completion of this planning process is critical to future development.

Learn more about Belize and the Mesoamerican Reef