During the course of this year’s judging and inspection trip for the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Tourism for Tomorrow Awards I’ve had the pleasure of learning how a range of global destinations have taken advantage of their World Heritage site status in order to boost their visibility and increase visitors interested in sustainable tourism.
I must say it made me think about how little Belize utilizes its UNESCO status especially with the high levels of interest being generated in Belize’s cultural tourism product through the 2012 celebrations (end of the current Maya Long Count Calendar).
Belize should use its UNESCO World Heritage status as a key driver for tourism to Belize and it should sit proudly at the heart of the a much deeper and more meaningful sustainable destination development plan for the country.
To learn more about the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System and it’s UNESCO World Heritage site listing click here
I’ll wager that few Belizean school kids know much about Belize’s UNESCO World Heritage site status and that schools don’t include it in their class work. Enlightened NGOs and some tourism stakeholders are working closely with schools in the field of environmental education yet so much more could be done to instill pride in school children, especially in coastal and island communities adjacent to the Barrier Reef. Belize’s children are the environmental stewards of tomorrow and so we as tourism stakeholders must do our part to instill them with pride and curiosity.
The recent Oceana inspired ‘people’s elections’ on whether Belize should allow off-shore oil drilling or not clearly shows that the people of Belize value their unique marine environment and want to preserve it for future generations. Read more about ‘the People’s Vote’ here.
By working together as tourism stakeholders we could help inspire school children along the Belize Barrier Reef to be the marine biologists, protected areas managers, fisheries department employees and tour guides of tomorrow.
Belize as a destination would benefit considerably if it took its World Heritage site status more seriously and used it as a focal point to create long term sustainable tourism strategy rather than turning to mass tourism development projects that offer high risk strategies with long lasting environmental impacts.