Responsible Travel and Tourism in Belize
For you, the traveler, responsible travel means minimizing the potentially adverse impacts of your travel on the places you visit, not only your environmental impacts, but also your economic, cultural and social impacts.
For us, a tourism business, responsible tourism means running and managing our business so that Belize and the people of Belize directly benefit from your travel with as little harm as possible to local cultures, the environment and social structures. Specificially, that, money stays in local communities through patronizing local businesses, resources such as clean water remain available for everyone, not just tourists and travelers, Belizeans are not confined to low-level service jobs, but instead have opportunities to work and grow professionally within their own tourism industry, women and children are protected from exploitation - and that our clients have authentic opportunities to learn about Belize and Belizeans.
Obviously, responsible travel and responsible tourism go hand in hand, and if achieved, give you a great and memorable vacation in a Belize that is a better place because you were there.
So to make that achievement happen, we only work with Belize hotels, resorts, lodges, guides and tour operators that actively conserve and protect Belize's precious environment, buy local products, hire local employees, respect local cultures and cultural practices, and work to limit the adverse social impacts of tourism, especially with respect to children and young adults.
And to help you get the most of your travel to Belize, we offer the following suggestions, information and resources:
- If you're interested in an overview of Belize politically, environmentally and socially, read Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw. It's not a dry text book, it's a good read, and offers excellent insights about Belize.
- While in Belize, be patient. Belize time is a little slower than the time you might be used to. Guides, tours operators and hotels are generally aware of time considerations and will make sure you get to your plane, boat or bus on time. However, restaurant and shop service might be little slow at times - slower in some parts of the country than others. There's nothing you can do about it, anyway, so just enjoy the more laid back pace.
- At Belize beach destinations, be aware that most Belizeans are fairly modest, and nude sunbathing on a beach is not really a good idea. (That doesn't mean you can't do it, but it's not all that respectful of the local cultures.) Walking around a village or town in a swimsuit is also not the most culturally respectful thing to do.
- Belizeans do not like to encourage begging - especially by the young and/or able-bodied. This extends to not offering candy, money or toys to kids, even if you do mean well. (After all, they shouldn't be accepting things from strangers, should they?)
- If you're staying in a beach area that offers nearby restaurants and shops, spend some time patronizing local businesses. Your tourism dollar will spread much further and benefit a lot more people locally, especially if your resort is foreign owned, with most of your tourist dollars leaving the country. However, not every "all-inclusive" beach resort is a bad deal locally. In fact, some fairly all-inclusive beach resorts in Belize are models of sustainable and responsible tourism. Just be aware of the issue and do some research if necessary. (We'll be happy to help you sort through this.)
- Unlike most beach resorts and hotels, Belize jungle lodges pretty much have to be all-inclusive - they are in the jungle, after all, and the jungle doesn't offer many dining opportunities, for example. (That is, unless you're into a diet of insects and leaves.) However, some are better then others in terms of giving back to nearby communities, environmental conservation and social responsibility. (Again, we can help you sort through these issues.)
- Be very careful when purchasing seafood if you will be preparing it yourself.
- By Belize law, lobster must have a tail weight of at least 4 ounces and a minimum 3" carapace. Lobster season is closed from 15 February to 14 June. However, some resorts have licenses to sell lobster year round provided the lobster was legally caught within the open seasaon. Our lobster stocks are in decline, and we don't think this is a good policy. So, please, don't eat lobster out of season, even if your hotel is legally allowed to sell it.
- Selling, buying, purchasing or consuming sea turtle meat, eggs or the turtle shell is illegal - period.
- Selling, buying, purchasing or consuming bonefish, tarpon and permit is illegal - period.
- The shell of a legal conch must be longer than 7 inches and cleaned meat must weigh more than 3 ounces. Conch season is closed from 1 July - 30 September.
- The season for Nassau grouper is closed from 1 December to 31 March.
- Belize's road system (or lack thereof), coupled with very expensive fuel, makes recycling difficult. Therefore, buy as little plastic as possible, take the plastic bottles you brought with you back with you so that they can be recycled, and bring a reuseable water container with you rather than constantly buying individual bottles of water. (The kind that fits on a belt is very helpful on ruins and jungle trips).
- Members of traditional Mennonite communities do not like to have their pictures taken.
- Older women are often called "mommy" by younger Belizean men. This is a sign of respect, don't take it personally if it happens to you. :)
- You should tip, particularly tour guides and hotel/restaurant personnel.
- On tours, pay close attention to instructions from your guide. For example, on snorkle and dive trips don't sit, stand, walk on or touch coral. Also, be careful that your fins are not stirring up sand that can cover coral and smother it.
- Buy locally produced souvenirs - why bother to travel to Belize only to take home a memento made in China? Good souvenirs/gifts include locally produced rum and hot sauces, wood and slate carvings, Mayan embroidery and Jippa Jappa baskets, drift seeds and local artwork.
- Don't pick up sea creatures without putting them back where you found them. It's really sad to come across a dead sea star that kids decided to play with and then left behind to die a slow and painful death on hot sand. And, do you really need to kill a living sand dollar for a souvenir? How about a nice carving or painting of a sand dollar instead?
- People speak English in Belize, have an English common-law legal system, and a British colonial background. That's doesn't mean Belize is a British -- or American -- country. It's Belize - part Caribbean, part Central American, part European, part African, part East Indian, part Asian, part Lebanese, part Mestizo - a land of many veils, some say. So treat it as a mysterious gift to unravel, rather than an outpost of North America or Europe, and you'll love it even more.