Tourism is the single largest service sub-sector, with estimated earnings accounting for 71.0% of recorded inflows on Belize’s services account and 22.4% of GDP in 2007.6 The sector alone has generated US$281 million in 2008, $8 million less than that recorded in 2007.7 The Belize Tourism Board reports indicate that The Phillip Goldson International Airport, Belize’s main port of entry from its primary market, United States, reported a 10.9% decrease in arrivals in April 2008, a 15.1% decrease in September 2008, a 15.9% decrease in October 2008 and a 9.3% decrease in December 2008. In 2007 and 2008 the US accounted for 60% of all tourist visitors. It is important to note the contraction in 2008 of US visitors was reflective of the worldwide financial crisis, the US mortgage crisis, and massive unemployment in the US and record breaking food and oil prices.
There is a general growth in tourist arrivals when assessing the reference period of 1998 to 2009, that is, a growth of 180,795 to 192,157 persons respectively, with 2007 recording the highest with 251,422 tourist arrivals.8 (See Figure 1) Nonetheless, the effect of the economic recession has severely impacted Belize’s Tourism Industry as stay over visitors declined by 10.1% to 68,814 persons in the first quarter of 2009. Furthermore, stay over visitors also declined by 6.0 % from 245,007 persons in 2008 to 192,157 persons by the third quarter of 2009. This is evident by the decrease in international airport arrivals reported in third quarter of 2009, specifically by 13.2%, while visitors through land and sea borders increased by 0.2% and 7.6% respectively.9 The volatility in arrivals is reflective of Belize’s dependence on United States as our major export market which captures 64.1% of total long stay tourists, with the European Union ranking second with 13.4%.