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Mar 13, 2020

Cruise Line Service to Belize Suspended Amid COVID-19

The threat of the coronavirus hovers over Belize as we start the weekend. But tonight the Ministry of Health confirms there are no cases of the virus here, but its effects are beginning to be felt. The overnight and cruise tourism sectors, both of which are the lifeblood of Belize’s economy, are taking a massive hit amid the widespread coronavirus crisis.  The Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation has issued a release confirming that Norwegian Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean are suspending global services for thirty days. It is expected that other cruise line companies will be following this growing trend. The decision was taken to prevent the spread of the virus to unaffected populations.  Quantifying an overall loss of revenue could easily amount to millions of dollars in the industry. Prime Minister Barrow said on Thursday that hotel cancellations had already climbed to thirty-five percent on Expedia alone.  While the PM said that there is no immediate need to cancel cruise ship calls, to Belize service to the country has since been postponed as a precautionary measure. Here’s what he shared at a press conference on Thursday, ahead of today’s developments.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“We need to approach that possibility carefully; there are practical reasons for that.  Forget for a moment the effect on tourism, which effect we are already experiencing, people are…  If this thing continues as the kind of pandemic that it is, we won’t have to worry about shutting down the country you know, nobody would come.  Already the tourism sector is screaming bloody murder and that’s why I talked about the oversight committee getting together on Monday to explore possibilities of assistance in that regard.  But coming back to the practical aspect of things, there are people abroad, Belizeans abroad right now, if we had come here today and say we’re banning all flights from coming in, what’s going to happen to those people? Regarding the cancellations that the hotels are already experiencing, thirty-three percent of all bookings for hotels in this country, thirty-three percent is done through Expedia.  Just today, Expedia told the B.T.B. that they are seeing a thirty-five percent cancellation for Belize hotels.  That is a big enough sample clearly to give an indication of the kind of impact this thing is already happening.  That’s why I said, we were in no rush to talk about canceling flights.  Already the industry is taking a pounding, if this continues, as I said, there would be no need to cancel flights because nobody will be coming.  In terms of cruise ships, because again, that’s very important because there are people who say cancel the cruise ships.  Again, we didn’t agree with that because as the B.T.B. director told me, they got in touch with the Caribbean Tourism Organization who forwarded what the W.H.O. is saying with respect to cruise, that there’s an insistence and that it appears from monitoring that the cruise lines are cooperating under these measures: There is pre-screening of everyone before embarkation on a cruise ship.  Any guest who bought a ticket to go to any of the W.H.O. hotspots, the countries that we know are danger zones.  Any such guest is prohibited from cruising and their tours are canceled before they can reach any port.”

 

The Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation has confirmed that as a part of the attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19, the Ministry has received notification that Norwegian Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines are suspending global services for thirty days. It is expected that other cruise line companies that also call to Belize will be following this growing trend. The decision of suspension of cruise services was made to prevent the spread of the virus to unaffected populations, countries, and crews.


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