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Jul 14, 2020

Caves Branch is Accepting Local Tourists Only; Doors Closed to International Visitors

Tourism stakeholders are counting down to the reopening of the P.G.I.A. on August fifteenth. But there are some in the tourism sector who don’t want the P.G.I.A. to reopen so soon because of the surge in cases in neighbouring countries and in the U.S.A., which is Belize’s largest tourism market. One of the properties that will not be accepting international visitors is Caves Branch Adventure Company and Jungle Lodge. They are only accepting locals and have adjusted their offerings to reflect that. Today, we spoke with founder Ian Anderson. Here’s the story.

 

Ian Anderson, Founder, Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Adventure Company & Jungle Lodge

“There is something special about this place. It is empowering. It is adventurous. It is like nowhere else in the world. My name is Ian Anderson. I am the founder, creator, operations manager of Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Adventure Company and Jungle Lodge.”

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

It’s one of Belize’s most well-known jungle lodges. The Ian Anderson Caves Branch Adventure Company and Jungle Lodge is popular with international tourists – and has been ever since it opened over twenty-years ago. But for the first time the property is closing its doors, temporarily, to international visitors when the PGIA reopens on August fifteenth. Ian Anderson explains that the increased risk from a growing number of cases in the USA is cause for concern despite Belize’s protocols in place for a reopening.

 

Ian Anderson

Ian Anderson

“Now we look at the airport opening on August fifteenth, opening primarily to the United States and please understand, I have no issues with the United States. Other than right now, COVID-19 is exploding through the country and it is out of control and they don’t seem to be doing anything to control it. We are opening our airport to the United States to have Americans who are living in this environment come in to our country. The tests that we are proposing are not a hundred percent. They give false negatives; they give false positives. They need to have a certain viral load for even the virus to register in many of the different tests. I just don’t think that it would be smart for us “at this time” to open to international tourists from the United States. I think it would be disastrous if we did but I can’t make the decision for everyone else. All I can do is to make the decision for myself and my family of over four hundred members of my personal extended family – my staff and their families – we have been together for twenty years and I am very concerned about their well-fare.”

 

It’s a tough decision for Ian Anderson – considering that tourism has been at a standstill for more than three months. He says he has to put the staff first as they are central to his business.  Is it feasible for such a large property to close itself off to international visitors and rely on local tourism until the USA get a better control on its COVID-19 cases?

 

Ian Anderson

“I made the decision in consultation with my staff that it would be better for us to stay closed from the international market right now and continue concentrating on providing a safe get-away destination for Belizeans within Belize. We really hope that we will retain that business with our local tourist.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Does this make business sense at this time? Is it feasible?”

 

Ian Anderson

“A couple of the comments that I have read on various posts about my comments – they have been mentioning this rich white man and he can afford to stay closed and he is a millionaire. Well, I can tell you right now that just this past week my bank account was emptied and I bounced my first check in many, many years. I don’t have any money right now. We have invested every penny we had in maintaining ourselves and our staff.  Some properties are going to open. We are not. We are going to stay close to the international market and just hope that we can maintain ourselves – not make any money – just maintain ourselves until the infection rate in the states seems to level a bit more that we feel it safer to open our doors to the international market. But, I think it is feasible for us to struggle through with the local market and keep our bills paid. But no one is getting rich right now. I can assure the general public. No one is getting rich.”

 

It’s described as a collection of five star luxury tree houses which are complete with roof top decks and hot tubs in the middle of the jungle. It has a fifteen acre botanical garden; a unique cheese house and access cave adventures.  So, will you be able to afford to visit a property like Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Adventure Company and Jungle Lodge? Founder Ian Anderson says they have slashed prices and created fun packages for locals.

 

Ian Anderson

“We have fabulous staff and have no foreign employees. We have this incredible level of staff that has managed to be here for years and years. I think it is a great place to be. We have fabulous food. We have fabulous staff. We have fabulous grounds. We have one of Central America’s nicest botanical gardens specializing in orchids and epiphytes. We have twenty five acres of garden and we give complimentary tours to our guest every day. We also have a fabulous internationally renowned cheese house. We give complimentary cheese tasting to our guests when they are here on selected days of the week. We have of course our Caves Branch adventures that are internationally renowned and probably some of the best adventure trips that are available in Belize.  The packages that we are promoting right now include the room and we have five different room types and three meals for the day for each one night package and include the complimentary tours that I mentioned and all the taxes and gratuities. We have discounted between forty-five and sixty-five percent all of our prices. I think it is a good deal for everyone to travel right now. We’d sure be happy to have you, I’ll tell you. We’d sure be happy to have you.”

 

 

All health and safety protocols are in place on site. If you want to know more about the specials for locals you can check out Caves Branch Adventure Company on Facebook. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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