Tourism Minister Weighs in Budget
The Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation is reporting minimal cuts in its budget for the fiscal year. However, there has been increased taxation on the industry in the form of the environmental tax on imported goods and the increase in departure tax for visitors. The Tourism Board, despite the Prime Minister’s commendations in an interview following the presentation at the National Assembly, will see its budget taxed by the Government’s proposed ten-percent requirement for statutory board contributions to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. But according to Minister Manuel Heredia Junior, the priorities for Belizean tourism have not changed. These include expanding Belize’s footprint in the world tourism market by land and sea and building our international tourism brand. But Heredia says the B.T.B. should not be taxed at this time.
Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation
“The Ministry of Tourism – very minimal cuts was there. I believe it was the smallest cuts within all the [Ministries] because again, the Ministry of Tourism’s budget was the smallest of all the Ministries. But it doesn’t really affect the tourism industry, because remember, the B.T.B. is marketing tool for the tourism industry, and if the numbers increase, the collection for B.T.B. increases, so we are able to seek other destinations. There are several options that are being proposed. [The] I.M.F. if you know, had always been saying that all monies that are collected [are] supposed to go to consolidate. I personally believe that particularly B.T.B., that is the backbone right now for foreign exchange and for our Government, supposed to stay as it is. But what Cabinet has done – they have formed a subcommittee composed of myself, Dr. Barnett, Minister Panton and the Deputy Prime Minister, and I’m almost sure that we will be meeting this week, [looking] at the overall picture of the statutory bodies, see how they are performing, who are performing better and who are not performing; then we will report to Cabinet for a final decision [on] what needs to be made.”
There was actually a slight increase to two point two million in expenditure for the Ministry over the approved estimate for 2016-2017, with projected outturn actually below that figure by a few hundred thousand. The Board is presently in the middle of a promotion push in Europe and will shortly start in Mexico. Heredia told us that while they expect no downturn in the American market of tourists visiting Belize, the issues with the Donald Trump presidency in the U.S. may well be a boon for Belize as far as tourism is concerned. The first set of statistics for tourist arrivals is due at the end of the first quarter later this month.