Despite its proximity to the Caribbean and being home to the second-largest barrier reef in the world, Belize has seen limited superyacht traffic. To help address this and open the country to the charter market, BOAT International Media and Belize Tourism Board (BTB) co-hosted a trip this spring (12-16 April) with nine brokers and managers.
The four-day programme focused on the south of the country. The group was based in the coastal peninsula of Placencia, but also took time to explore Punta Gorda and its surrounding rainforest. The itinerary aimed to showcase the country’s cruising potential with guests taking part in a dive, private island experience and river cruise.
“Belize is a destination that has a lot of diversity in terms of our barrier reef, and all the activities that we can do on land and all our cultural diversity. Being able to share this with people around the world is really what our intention is,” explained Nicole Solano, CEO of Belize Tourism and Diaspora Relations.
The trip got underway in Placencia, with delegates taking the short scenic flight from the international airport in Belize City. The group stayed at the Itz'ana Resort & Residences, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, and enjoyed welcome cocktails and an al fresco dinner on the first evening.
The action started the next day with divers of the group heading out to Gladden Split to get a taste of the marine life that the country is famous for. With a group of nurse sharks following them for most of the dive, their experience didn’t disappoint. “It was so nice just to see a reef really thriving, there were so many different fish and nurse sharks,” said Y.CO’s Tom DeBuse.
The same day the charter representatives were also able to get a taste of the private island experiences that Belize can offer. With more than 450 cays, there are plenty of opportunities for superyachts to sample a taster of the Robinson Crusoe lifestyle. The delegates spent the afternoon on Scipio Cay, which is set up to offer a private barbeque lunch experience on the untouched island.
“This whole space is dotted with islands. It was special to see that up close and personal and to see how yachts are going to love exploring these waters,” said IYC’s Carrie Freeman.
Approximately 40 nautical miles south of Placencia is the small coastal town of Punta Gorda, which has been earmarked by the BTB as a potential destination for superyacht development. To get a feeling for the region, on the third day of the programme, delegates made the short flight from Placencia and took a river cruise from the coast into the rainforest.
“Going over to Copal Tree Lodge was one of my favourites, just because it was something I hadn’t experienced before,” said Ocean Independence’s Casey Noble. “I have been to Belize a couple of times, but I have always been along the coast and not been able to explore the rainforest as much.”
The river cruise concluded at Copal Tree Lodge, which is famed for its agri-tourism. Following lunch on site, with the menu featuring produce grown and reared on the property, the delegates took part in a chocolate-making class and rum distillery tour.
For many of the charter brokers and managers, who represented most of the major brokerage houses in the United States and Europe, it was their first time visiting the country. The programme concluded with a roundtable discussion attended by the Minister of Tourism, The Hon. Anthony Mahler, to help shape the country’s strategy. It enabled participants to give their honest feedback on the experience and the country’s potential.
Solano said that the conversation had been hugely “beneficial” for the BTB. “A lot of assumptions that we had about the market and the needs might not have been the reality,” she added. “To have the ability to sit down and speak on the needs was very helpful.”
As a final highlight for the trip, the group, alongside representatives from the BTB, went on a sunset cruise around Placencia, before departing from Belize City the following day.