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Mar 31, 2006

B.T.B. to guides/operators: Policies are now laws

Story PictureIn the wake of several disturbing incidents involving tourists visiting Belize, this week the Belize Tourism Board officially notified tour guides and operators around the country that they are now working under new rules. According to B.T.B.’s product development manager, Anthony Mahler, high on the list of laws is the fact that guides conducting marine tours must now do so at a ratio of eight tourists to one guide; and for terrestrial trips, there can be only fifteen visitors to one guide. Mahler says the regulations were derived from countrywide consultations and are designed to maintain Belize’s reputation as a safe destination.

Anthony Mahler, Product Development Manager, B.T.B.
?For many of the things that were policy that didn?t have the teeth to go to court or that we could levy a summons or something that could have effect, so many of those policies have now become law. And the priority ones are the ratio for guide to tourists and some of the training programmes and for the tour operators, primarily the dive policy. All the steps that were outlined in the dive policy have now become law.?

?When you have growth in tourism like we?ve had or experienced over the last few years, we?ll have growth in the number of incidents. But if you look at Belize as a destination, we?re still a safe destination, but we?re trying to be proactive. For example, what we?re going to do this fiscal year, starting April, is to come up with a safety and security DVD or training manual that we?ll issue to tour guides and tour operators. This is the best practices that we?d like to see you use when you?re dealing with marine tours, these are the best practices that we?d like to see you use if you?re dealing with terrestrial tours, and if you?re caught in a tough situation that you need to be rescued, these are some of the steps that you can take to ensure that you save the lives of your tourists with yourself.?

Janelle Chanona
?Anything else you wanted to highlight??

Anthony Mahler
?Again, this is an ongoing process. We need the support of the industry on a whole when we make these decisions, but whatever we do we?ll consult with industry; that?s a critical part because those are the people out there and whatever regulations we put in place will affect them. But we?re trying to have a safe industry but not go overboard too much so that it becomes a detriment to the growth of industry as well.?

For more information on the new rules, please contact Kenneth Williams at the Belize Tourism Board on the Northern Highway in Belize City.

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