Policies are now laws - In the wake of several disturbing incidents involving tourists visiting Belize, last week the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) 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.
“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,” Anthony Mahler, Product Development Manager, B.T.B., told News5.
“And the priority ones are the ratio for guide to tourists and some of the training programs and for the tour operators, primarily the dive policy. All the steps that were outlined in the dive policy have now become law.”
Mahler went on to say that when you have growth in tourism like Belize has had or experienced over the last few years, there’s also 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,” said Mahler. “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.”
According to Mahler, 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 the industry; that’s a critical part because those are the people out there and whatever regulations we put in place will affect them.”
Mahler concluded that BTB’s aim is to have a safe industry, but at the same time not go overboard too much so that it becomes a detriment to the growth of industry. For more information on the new rules, please contact Kenneth Williams at the Belize Tourism Board.