7 News Belize

Civil Aviation Day
posted (December 5, 2008)

Sunday is International Civil Aviation day and the idea is to promoting the safety, efficiency and regularity of international air transport. But for some it just meant watching the British military pull off some neat stunts at the Marion Jones Stadium. I visited for the show and the substance.

Jacqueline Godwin Reporting,
Today, Belize commemorated International Civil Aviation Day and what a celebration it was as there was a dramatic aerial display mounted by the search and rescue wing of the British Army Training Support Unit. It demonstrated just one of the opportunities available for skilled aviation personnel, the theme for this year’s observance.

Jose Contreras, Director - Civil Aviation
“The objective of today is to commemorate International Civil Aviation Day which was created to remember the creation of the International Civil Aviation Organization in 1944. in 1994, 50 years of that organization was celebrated and in 1996 the United Nations declared the 7th of December as International Civil Aviation Day. Today we are celebrating on the 5th because it will fall on the 7th which is a Sunday.”

On the ground, departments from the aviation industry exhibited their services including representatives from both international and local airlines like Tropic Air which will be celebrating its thirtieth anniversary next year.

Catherine Paz, Tropic Air
“We started really with a three seater airplane. Today we boast 8 Cessna Grand Caravans and we have three Caravans that come fully equipped now with the new panels. We have one here on display and we also, Tropic Air has been doing a lot not only in passenger service but Tropic Air plays a major part in the infrastructure of Belize. We carry freight cargo throughout the country. We have a wonderful mail service that people utilize. We’ve come a real long way.”

Minister of Tourism Manuel Heredia is optimistic about the future of aviation in Belize. He told us that it will continue to improve with the introduction of new international and local flights.

Hon. Manuel Heredia, Minister of Tourism & Civil Aviation
“The one thing that is almost sure to come in December this month will be an additional flight by Taca which will be connecting all the South American flights to Salvador and then to Belize that will overnight in Belize and then I think at six o’clock in the morning it goes over there. That will give us connection to all the South American flights and hopefully also they are looking forward to a flight direct from New York to Belize City which it should be either American Airlines, we are hoping that will happen this month also.”

Catherine Paz,
“We’ve always been flying into Flores Guatemala. We offer two scheduled flights, one in the morning and one in the afternoon and basically those flights are to take passengers, visitors to Belize to visit the ruins of Tikal in Flores. Tropic Air also does flights out of San Pedro. We do stops in Sartenja, there is a runway there, and we do flights to Tower Hill, accessing Lamanai, which is a popular tourist destination.”

Hon. Manuel Heredia,
“Maya is doing the Honduras flights regularly. I think a few months ago we started again with the Flores Peten flight which was stopped for a few months and according to my understanding, Maya Airlines in conjunction with other partners are trying to set up an airline that will service Cancun Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and even local flights within Honduras.”

But a declining tourist arrivals at the Philip Goldson International Airport continues to be a challenge to the industry. The Ministry of Tourism hopes a specific plan of action will overcome what they believe to be only a short term crisis.

Hon. Manuel Heredia,
“Overall the economy which is a worldwide thing that is happening but I feel that in Belize we are always trying to catch up with things that occur. In that case like in the Ministry of Tourism, which has to do also with Civil Aviation, we are looking forward to new marketing, making use of our neighbours which in the past I think we forgot Mexico and the other Central American countries so we are moving into those markets to make sure that we are able to cope.”

According to recent statistics on tourist arrivals at the Philip Goldson International Airport there was an increase in arrivals during the first three months of 2008. Since then the numbers have fluctuated, and gone mostly downward, spiking up only occasionally. In October the downturn reached an all time low when only five thousand, three hundred and thirty eight arrivals were recorded.

According to a BTB spokesperson that it was the lowest number record since 2002. In fact it showed a fifteen point nine percent drop from last October’s arrivals at the PGIA. In November and December there is usually an increase in arrivals at the PGIA but those numbers are not out yet and due to the economic crisis in the United States it is expected that the decline will continue. North Americans comprise the bulk of tourists who pass though the PGIA.

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