As we embark on a new year at Itz'ana, we thought we'd take a look back on some of the milestones that made up Belize's 2018 and anticipate some of what might be in store for us in the year ahead and beyond.
It was about this time last year when the World Wildlife Foundation announced that the Belizean government had passed a law that would prevent the possibility of offshore oil drilling in its waters in the future. Described by Charles Darwin as "the most spectacular reef in the West Indies" and stretching over 300 KM down the coast of Belize, the Belizean reef is home to over 100 different species of coral and 500 species of fish. Now recognized as the largest living reef in the world, it was incredibly exciting when UNESCO removed it from it's endangered world heritage sites list in June. Citing the moratorium on oil and the defense measures taken by the country in strengthening their forestry regulations to better protect the mangroves is what led to this reversal of its classification as endangered.
In this same period of time Lonely Planet applauded Belize's pledge to ban single use plastic by Earth Day (April 22nd) of 2019. Highlighting a staggering statistic from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that "plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish by 2050", switching to biodegradable alternatives from styrofoam and single use shopping bags will make an enormous difference. With recognition like this, there is no doubt that Belize will be considered an International leader in eco-tourism and ocean protection as it continues to implement these initiatives.
In the epic two hour special that aired around the world on December 2nd, The Discovery Channel went "Live Into the Blue Hole" with the grandson of legendary explorer, Jacque Cousteau and founder of the Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson. The Blue Hole has always been a huge draw for tourism, as Jacque Cousteau declared it one of the top 5 diving spots in the world back in the early 1970s. In 2012 the Discovery Channel had listed this giant marine sinkhole as one of the "10 Most Amazing Places on Earth".
As evidence of that, in what the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) is calling "an outstanding year for tourism" Belize saw overnight visitor stays sky rocket throughout 2018. There was an almost 15% increase over 2017, not including cruise tourism. Recent statistics indicate that while Belize is just 10,000 visitors short of reaching half a million overnight visitors in the year, that number has doubled since 2009.
While a lot of this is made possible by the addition of new international flights to the country, its most certainly also fueled by some of the outstanding press that Belize received throughout the year for its environmental consciousness. And now, as 2019 is upon us, some of the world's largest travel publications are encouraging travelers to get excited about the destination. National Geographic, for example, featured Belize as a part of their "Where to travel in 2019" list. Recognizing that, as one of Central America's smallest countries, Belize is blazing a trail in marine conservation.
Placencia is just a sixteen mile long peninsula in the south of Belize and yet, Conde Nast Traveler, one of the world's leading travel publications covered the destination in an 8 page spread in their December/January issue. The feature went into great detail on what it's like to walk the streets of the small fishing village, where to eat and the local characters that make it so special. Featuring stunning photos of the area and with mention of Itz'ana Resort & Residences, we're honored to have been part of the village that was bestowed such prime editorial real estate.
Most recently, Forbes reviewed the resorts being built in the Caribbean in the wake of 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria and published their list of Most Anticipated Hotels of 2019 and beyond. While Belize was untouched by the extreme weather in the past few years, Itz'ana Resort & Residences was noted for our solar cottages and stunning beachfront. Last, but certainly not least, just this week, Boston Real Estate Times listed Belize as one of six Best Overseas Real Estate markets for 2019.
So with an extremely successful 2018 behind us as a nation, we're proud to be recognized on a global scale as a resort aligned with this burgeoning and ecologically responsible destination. It is with great anticipation and intention that we embark upon 2019 and we look forward to sharing it with you.