As we embark on a new year at Ka'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 as 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 is now considered an International leader in eco-tourism and ocean protection as it continues to implement these initiatives. Ahead of this, Ka'ana has been using biodegradable containers, garbage bags and other items for years now making it a hotel leader in the country.
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, including a new domestic flight that will go directly from San Ignacio to Placencia beginning this month, 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 have been and continue to encourage travelers to get excited about the destination including Robb Report, Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic, LA Times, Forbes, and many more.
And while the coast gets a lot of attention, the jungle experience of Belize is continuing to grow in popularity for its wonderful and wild excursions. As a luxe outpost based in the jungles of Belize, Ka'ana iis being recognized as a leading boutique hotel amongst other top hotels world-wide. Including Celebrated Living Magazine (pg 29) recognizing Ka'ana as one of their top Boutique Hotels in the world in their annual Platinum List; Small Luxury Hotels honoring Ka'ana with the Caring Luxury Award based on its outstanding green credentials, its use of local amenities and its contribution to the local community through the creation of scholarship funds, bathroom rehabilitation projects and an environmental program. Additionally, Ka'ana has one, for the 4th year in a row, the prestigious World Travel Award for Mexico and Central America's Leading Boutique Resort.
So with an extremely successful 2018 behind us as a nation and hotel, we're proud to be recognized on a global scale 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.