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Dec 9, 2011

Health and Wellness Tourism Package

We’ve heard about the plan to introduce medical tourism and tonight two major resorts are looking to develop the less controversial health and wellness tourism. Stakeholders in tourism feel that the Jewel has more than sea, sand and sun to offer and that a healthy lifestyle could attract many more visitors to Belize. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Tourism in Belize, despite growth and contraction in key sectors of the industry this year, remains one of the country’s chief revenue generators.  Challenges aside, there are new products being launched locally that are expected to derive additional income.  Along with the proposed introduction of medical tourism is a focus on health and wellness, a niche market that is currently being pioneered by Maruba Resort and The Lodge at Chaa Creek.  A small group of stakeholders sat down today to discuss expansion within the industry.

Dr. Auliana Poon, Managing Director, Tourism Intelligence International

“The travel and tourism industry is changing and it’s changing rapidly and radically.  What’s changing it [is] the technology on the supply side and the customers.  The customers are demanding something different.  We have to understand that the population is getting older but they’re getting fitter and they want more recuperation, rejuvenation, spa [and] wellness and it’s a trend but it’s not just a fad.  We see it as a deep down trend in travel and tourism and for the Caribbean we see that we cannot continue to compete simply on sun, sand and sea alone, and some sports, diving and so on.  We need to compete with information and with intelligence and with innovation and one of the trends we’re seeing is that demand for more wellness and we see the Caribbean as having all of the ingredients to drive this trend.”

Auliana Poon

Statistics for the current season were recently made public and, notwithstanding the dip in cruise arrivals, it is widely believed that wellness tourism can be a viable area that needs to be explored.

Dr. Auliana Poon

“The industry as a whole globally has been taking a serious battering from the global recession and so that we’ve been having.  It’s recovering, it’s recovering slowly but recovery is sure.  What we tell people is that we should not just look at the numbers because for example the British market is getting a beating, I mean there is double dip recession, it’s challenges and so but the key fact is when that market recovers it’s not the same.  People are wanting to do different things, they’re overstressed, they are in all kinds of situations and we want to be ready and I think we have to see that challenge in the market as an opportunity.”

According to Dr. Auliana Poon, a tourism expert based in Trinidad, spa and wellness is the future of tourism for Belize having exhausted what the country has had to offer over the years with respect to ecotourism.

Dr. Auliana Poon

“We have to understand that it is exactly what Belize has, O2 (oxygen), natural environment, natural life, nature.  This is what people want to engage in and engage with and at the end of the day those are the factors that will continue to be in demand but the key thing is how do we add value to nature?  When we think about adventure it’s really about human beings engaging with nature.  How can we maintain that nature but at the same time provide the employment, the jobs, the opportunities for our local and rural communities to really benefit from tourism?  And we see spa and wellness as one of those great opportunities for the future.  Already places like Maruba Resort is absolutely incredible in terms of how it’s leading world best practices in spa and wellness and body painting and all of those things.  Chaa Creek is another one and you have others.”

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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