Going Gold – and Green

Belize is open to visitors once again. It opened on October 1st, and is appropriately, following strict rules. Travelers to Belize must test negative for COVID-19 and may only stay at approved Gold Standard Hotels. The Gold Standard includes a nine-point checklist for tourism businesses that includes temperature monitoring, masks, sanitation, training and enforcement and a “safe corridor” program which aims to limit the places that guests can go, both on hotel property and when touring around the country. You can review the full Gold Standard list at https://caribbeanlifestyle.com/gold-standard-program/ and on Episode 23 of The Belize Travelcast.

We are actively pursuing our own Gold Standard certification, and we will of course make an announcement as soon as we achieve it.

Sticking to these new guidelines makes sense in terms of ensuring safety for visitors, of course, but it also inspired us to look at some other changes we have been thinking about for a while. One of the things that struck us when we first arrived here, and which strikes every visitor, is how closely we are intertwined with nature. The country of Belize is a natural paradise, and Ambergris Caye is as close to the water as you could possibly get. I have always enjoyed watching our guests breathe in the life that surrounds them as they trade their leather shoes and winter boots for bare feet in the sand. 

Bret and I are aware that people are increasingly making “green” a high priority in their home lives, choosing more environmentally friendly packaging and products, and even looking at alternate sources of power for their homes and cars, and in some cases focusing on more plant-based foods for their meals. There really seems to be a growth in the desire for more responsible use of our planet’s resources, and in the midst of all the chaos of the pandemic, it was amazing to observe things like the waters of Venice running clear, with dolphins and fish returning to places that had not been accessible to them for decades, and everywhere around the world, birds changing and enhancing their songs thanks to reduced noise pollution. We are also aware that these same environmental concerns are influencing peoples’ choices of how and where to vacation. It’s wonderful to spend some time relaxing by the sea, but it feels so much better when you know you are not leaving an environmental footprint behind.

This is why we are looking into ways we can become even more environmentally friendly, here at Coastal Breezes. We are looking into eliminating single use items, and incorporating more solar electricity into our operations. It has been a learning experience! Coming from Canada, a country with a vast amount of fresh water, to an island surrounded by salt water, has opened our eyes to the fact that natural resources should not be taken for granted. Two years ago, I had no idea what a cistern was. Now I think it is the best thing since sliced bread!

We are also very active in working to eliminate plastics and styrofoam from our roadways, and we drive any glass bottles that we find to a “recycling” center south of town, where they actually pulverize it for tile. We have a long way to go, of course, but it certainly feels like the right time to get started. A few years ago, it wasn’t feasible to consider solar panels, but now, you can buy everything from Amazon and get set up quickly and safely. These are changing times in so many ways. I think we have all gained new appreciation for the things we took for granted less than a year ago, like being able to dine at a restaurant, or even give someone a hug. I think this renewed awareness for the things we care for in life can also be applied to the life that surrounds us, so yes, we feel it’s the perfect time that as we pursue our new Gold standard, we will establish a green one alongside.

For more information about our beach house properties, please visit us at coastalbreezes.bz, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

The Gold Standard

Phase 3 of the “Reopening Travel Plan” means that our international airport will be available for leisure travel on October 1. Major airlines like American and United will restart their scheduled trips to Belize throughout the month. As a complement to this,  the Belize Tourist Board has created a new “Gold Standard” for hotels and resorts to help ensure the safety of visitors, employees, and residents.

The Gold Standard includes a nine-point checklist for tourism businesses and includes the standard items you would expect – temperature monitoring, masks, sanitation, training and enforcement, and the full list can be seen at https://caribbeanlifestyle.com/gold-standard-program/. The key part of the criteria is that guests must be able to eat, sleep and stay within a resort. They can leave the resort only on tours that have been scheduled by the resort. This also means that resorts must have an onsite restaurant in order to meet this new standard. To enter the country, visitors will need to supply a 72-hour negative Covid test.

Charlie and Mr. Bean waiting for visitors…

This might prove to be a problem to a number of destinations on the island, mainly because Belize has not been a place for all-inclusive resorts, and there are none on Ambergris Caye itself. In fact, one of the most appealing parts of vacationing here is the fact that we don’t have huge resorts, or even paved roads, for that matter. Ambergris Caye is a place where you can hop on a golf cart and drive around in a much quieter and less-built up environment. 

The checklist is well-intentioned, of course. It’s a demonstration of how governments and private businesses are cooperating to try and restore some normalcy to an economy that is extremely dependent on tourism, as well as offering a responsible and safe place for visitors. Many residents and citizens here are really suffering, and in addition to the lack of work, they are quite appropriately afraid of the obvious danger that incoming waves of tourists might bring.

Though the Gold Standard Checklist might serve all-inclusive resorts well, not only in Belize, but in any country that adopts a similar charter, this does nothing for the restaurants, excursions and other merchants in the area who also depend on tourists for their livelihood.

Table service at Secret Beach, 2019

Perhaps the next best step would be to modify the Gold Standard checklist to embrace the entire community. It could still continue to demand and ensure physical safety and sanitation practices at all resort locations, including beach house properties like ours, but also expand and enforce social distancing protocols a restaurants, bars and everywhere else visitors like to explore.

There are many examples all over the world of how correct social distancing and mask techniques are effective in combating the spread of the virus. Many of the spikes being seen now are the result of people gathering together without protection, whereas churches, buses, and hair salons, for example, have been open for many weeks in many areas of North America, and have not resulted in new infections.

Hopefully, the decision makers in Belize, and other tourist destinations will develop a second page for their Gold Standard charter, that involves and embraces the other suppliers to the tourist economy. Belize remains an exceptionally beautiful place to visit, and if there was ever a time that people deserve a break to enjoy some sun, the sea, and the beauty of the Caribbean and its people, this year is definitely it. So, here’s hoping for an expanded Gold Standard so that we can welcome you back.

For more information about our beach house properties, please visit us at coastalbreezes.bz, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.