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Belize Declaration on Responsible Tourism in Destinations

This afternoon saw the closing by Manuel Heredia, the Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture, of the 3rd International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations held in Belmopan, Belize. Manuel Heredia was present while the Belize Declaration was discussed and passed and was enthusiastic to have the declaration as part of the process of Belize adopting a strong Responsible Tourism policy to guide the further development of tourism in Belize. The new Tourism Master Plan for Belize will be based on Responsible Tourism principles. 

Two hundred and fifty participants from 19 countries took part in the conference with people travelling from Barbados, Canada, The Gambia, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Oman, Panama, Puerto Rico, St Lucia, Salvador, the UK, the USA and as far away as South Africa.

The Minister received a standing ovation from participants for co-chairing the conference in Belize and for his evident commitment to implementing the principles of Responsible Tourism, originally agreed in Cape Town in 2002, and reaffirmed in Kerala in 2008. The principles served well in Belize and will be used in developing their national Responsible Tourism Policy and development strategy. 

There were five themes considered in Belize
A. Tourism & Local Economic Development
B. Tourism’s Impacts on Marine and Coastal Areas
C. Cruise Tourism Impacts in Belize and the World
D. Impact of Second Homes Tourism and Condominiums on Local Communities
E. Tourism Impacts on Climate Change

It is important to look at the Belize Declaration as a whole ? but it worth emphasizing that it
1. called for the fostering of local economic development opportunities for rural communities through route tourism;
2. recognised that the maintenance of a healthy coastal zone ecology in Belize takes priority over tourism and other forms of development on the coast,
3. identified yield as more important that cruse ship arrival figures,
4. called for stricter regulation and enforcement of second home and condominium, developments and
5. called on Ministers of Tourism and Aviation need to work with their colleagues in developing countries and Small Island Developing States to press for aviation taxes on carbon emissions which encourage airlines to improve their carbon efficiency and so that those that fly meet the full costs of the pollution they cause. The funds should be hypothecated for adaptation projects in developing countries.

The Belize Declaration on Responsible Tourism in Destinations can be downloaded here or in the near future from where all the presentations will also be available to download.

Dr Rajiha Abdulamir Ali, Minister of Tourism, Sultanate of Oman asked me to invite, on her behalf,  participants to Oman for the 4th International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations.
?With our vast country and scattered villages, we have encouraged our people to maintain their lifestyles and with diligent efforts, infrastructure has been provided to allow them to continue to inhabit their ancestral lands. We pride ourselves on having protected and safeguarded our culture and heritage which is now our main selling proposition for tourism.

Our strict guidelines on architectural styles and codes have lead to the preservation of our vernacular architecture and immediately makes a lasting impression on our visitors. ? The fine balance that needs to be struck between the economic benefits of tourism versus the negative effects that it can cause need careful consideration and will continue to be debated. Our need to create employment for our youth will remain a key priority of the Government and tourism is ideally placed to help us achieve this but we understand some of the difficulties they we will face.?

?In hosting the conference next year, we aim to create a platform to explore the views of experienced professionals such as yourselves and to also share some of our experiences. It is through this prevailing dialogue that we will be able to make a difference and in making Oman a better place to live and a better place to visit.. I personally look forward to meeting you in Muscat next year and thank you for allowing me to showcasing Oman in this brief session.?

Laura McGowan invited participants to attend the 2011 5th International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations which will take place in Canada. The themes of the 2011 conference will include indigenous peoples and tourism.
The International Conferences on Responsible Tourism in Destinations are now firmly established as annual events. As the Belize conference closed people we taking about meeting next year in Oman. Manuel Heredia, the Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture accepted an invitation to participate in the conference in Oman and to report on Belize’s progress in implementing its commitment to Responsible Tourism. 

After the success of the Belize Conference, for which Yashin and Kenrick and their team deserve a hearty vote of thanks, the focus now shifts to planning for Oman in 2010 where there will also be an opportunity to find out about progress in Belize.

Themes for consideration in Oman in 2010 are still being discussed but they are likely to include cultural heritage and the built environment and to have a strong regional flavour. I am travelling to Oman at the end of next week and further news will appear here.

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