Southwest Airlines capacity to Belize expected to grow by 117%
In a move that was predicted by experts familiar with the tourism sector in Belize, Southwest has announced that it will be adding not one but two new routes from the United States to Belize. Southwest has announced that it will be operating a non-stop route from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Belize beginning on June 4, 2017, and a non-stop route from Denver to Belize starting on March 11, 2017.
Together, these two flights account for an astonishing 117% increase in Southwest’s capacity for serving the hot Belize travel market. The new routes are in addition to Southwest’s current non-stop route from Houston’s Hobby Airport (HOU) that began in 2015. The new routes now mean that Southwest has overtaken Delta Airlines as the third-biggest US-based airline serving Belize.
Belize, a small Central American country with just 360,000 inhabitants, is rapidly becoming one of the hottest visitor destinations in the region. The latest reports published by the Belize Tourism Board show that 2016 was a record-breaking year for tourism in Belize. 2016 saw a red hot 13% growth in the number of overnight stays, up more than 44,000 from the previous year. 2016 saw a total of 385,583 recorded overnight stays, up from 341,161 in 2015 and 321,220 in 2014.
Currently, all international flights into Belize land at the Philip Goldson airport (BZE) located just outside of Belize City. The latest figures published by the government show that 52% of all air traffic in Belize operates out of the Philip Goldson airport, with 95,228 passengers flying out of the airport in 2016. The other top airports in Belize in terms of passenger traffic were the Belize City Municipal airport (TZA) with 22,020 passengers, San Pedro (SPR) with 19,980 passengers, Caye Caulker (CUK) with 10,680 passengers, and Dangriga (DGA) with 9,002. All told, Belize City has seen a 30% increase since last year in terms of total seat capacity.
The United States is once again the top destination for international flights to and from Belize, with 23% of all outgoing flights heading to America. The increased competition between American, Delta, United, and Southwest prompted a 17% increase in seat capacity for 2016. The other top international destinations with flights to and from Belize include Guatemala (25% growth in 2016) and Panama (12.5% growth in 2016).
Cruise passenger arrivals to Belize set a new record in 2016, breaking the one million mark for the first time in history. With a 4.9% increase over 2015, 2016 saw 1,005,394 cruise passengers disembark in Belize, up from 957,975 in 2015 and 968,131 in 2014. The government credits an active marketing strategy, improved infrastructure, and greater cooperation between private sector tourism stakeholders for the sustained increase in the number of visitors to Belize.