BTIA Annual General Meeting 2020 – H. E. Ambassador Remus Li-Kuo Chen

Speech by H. E. Ambassador Remus Li-Kuo Chen

as Special Guest Speaker for

Belize Tourism Industry Association’s

35th Annual General Meeting 2020

on December 3, 2020

Hon. Anthony Mahler, Minister of Tourism and Diaspora Relations,

Mrs. Nicole Solano, Chief Executive Officer, Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations,

Mrs. Melanie Paz, President of Belize Tourism Industry Association,

Mrs. Tamara Sniffin, First Vice-President of Belize Tourism Industry Association,

Mr. Stewart Krohn, Second Vice-President of Belize Tourism Industry Association,

Mr. John Burgos, Executive Director of Belize Tourism Industry Association,

Mr. Osmany Salas, Senator of NGO Community and Chapter Representative of Belize Tourism Industry Association,

Members of BTIA,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


Good morning!

First of all, I am glad to be invited as a special guest speaker in the Belize Tourism Industry Association’s Annual General Meeting. I am the 9th Taiwan Ambassador to Belize since 1989 and I heard from the host, BTIA, that my predecessors had different kinds of interactions with BTIA, but I am the first one to be invited as a special guest speaker in your Annual General Meeting. Thank you very much for such a distinct honor.


Let me first take this opportunity to congratulate Hon. Anthony Mahler, Minister of Tourism and Diaspora Relations, for your victory in the recent general elections and assuming this important ministerial role. I also want to mention and praise the announcement of the appointment of Mrs. Nicole Solano as CEO of the Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations. Congratulations!


I was told the role of the special guest speaker today is to share a positive message that will resonate with members and provide motivation towards the recovery of Belizean tourism industry. Right now the whole world is still suffering from the devastating pandemic of COVID-19.  Indeed, the disease knows no borders. Historically there were Spanish flu in 1918, the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, and the H1N1 influenza of 2009, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in 2012, Ebola in West Africa in 2014, and the Zika virus in South America in 2016. In the end of 2019, the Coronavirus disease COVID-19 created an unprecedented public health crisis for all human beings.


Taiwan was hit hard 17 years ago by the SARS outbreak, but we learned our lesson and became very vigilant!  When information concerning a novel pneumonia outbreak was first confirmed on December 31, 2019 in Wuhan, China, Taiwan immediately responded with concrete actions.


Under the leadership of our Central Epidemic Command Center, Taiwan adopted and executed series of measures under the following four principles: prudent action, rapid response, advance deployment, and openness and transparency. We employed such strategies as the operation of specialized command systems, the implementation of meticulous border control measures, the production and distribution of adequate supplies of medical resources, the employment of home quarantine and isolation measures and related care services, the application of IT systems, the publishing of transparent and open information, and the execution of precise screening and testing. With all of the above and even more effective measures, we have been fortunate enough to contain the virus. As of December 2, Taiwan has only 685 confirmed cases and 7 deaths, in the context of managing a population of almost 24 million. Furthermore, it’s been over 200 days without any locally transmitted cases in Taiwan. Meanwhile, life and work remain pretty much unchanged for the majority of people there, including leisure activities and sports events.


The global outbreak of COVID-19 has reminded the world that infectious diseases do not discriminate along political, ethnic, religious, or cultural lines. All nations should work together to address the threat of emerging diseases. In that regard, once Taiwan had stabilized its containment of the virus and ensured that its people had sufficient access to medical resources, we began to share and exchange our best practice, experience and  information with global public health professionals and scholars through COVID-19 related forums, APEC’s High-Level Meeting on Health and the Economy, the Global Cooperation Training Framework, and other virtual bilateral meetings, but also with experts from governments, hospitals, universities, and think tanks in more than 32 countries. In addition, Taiwan also donated tons of medical equipment and supplies to countries in urgent need, Belize included, such as surgical masks, N95 masks, isolation gowns, forehead thermometers, fast testing kits, PCR analyzers to more than 80 countries.


To prepare for a possible next wave of the pandemic as well as the approaching flu season, Taiwan is reinforcing its strategies of reminding citizens to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, and strengthening border quarantine measures, community-based prevention, and medical preparedness. Furthermore, we are actively collaborating with domestic and international partners to obtain vaccines and develop optimal treatments and accurate diagnostic tools, jointly safeguarding global public health security.

However, Taiwan’s tourism industry, without exception, has been dealt with a big blow by this pandemic. Before COVID-19, Taiwan is marketed as a travel destination that features “warm friendship, high intelligence, and valuable experiences.” Since 2017, we have made every effort to carry out our “Sustainable Development for Tourism 2020” program. And it is aimed at branding Taiwan as one of the must-go destinations in Asia. Now that most international travel has been restricted due to COVID-19, our government wasted no time staging new policies to revitalize our tourism sector after containing the domestic spread and witnessing the decline of virus threat in the past summer.


A broad range of measures were implemented. Stimulating domestic travel was an important early step. The goal was to lift up not just the tourism itself, but also many tourism-related industries that had been hit hard as well. There is always a silver lining of every cloud. We also made efforts to further improve the competitive edge of Taiwan’s positioning in the international travel market, now on par with or even better than countries like Denmark, Bahrain, Morocco or Switzerland with international visitors reaching 12 million people in 2019!


To be more specific, Taiwan implemented its Domestic Travel Promotion Measures into two phases. PHASE ONE, A familiarization (FAM) tour focused on pandemic prevention. We invited travel operators to assess available tourism resources and design itineraries that combine accommodations, food and drinks, and transportation with a heavy emphasis on pandemic prevention. As part of the tour we communicated to the public the various preventive measures being conducted, such as cleaning and sanitizing tour buses, taking passengers’ temperatures, and making appropriated seating arrangements with regard to social distancing. PHASE TWO, This included reviewing results after implementation, monitoring the processes that had been established, and also implementing rolling corrections for even higher and safer standards.


We then effectively promoted the new Safe Travel with Domestic Tourism project.  The tourism demand that had been suppressed for nearly half a year was transferred from foreign travel to the domestic market. Demand for “pseudo-going abroad” travel to its outlying islands has skyrocketed. As a result, airlines began adjusting their capacity in June, and they even changed their international routes to offer the services to fly around Taiwan so that passengers feel they are travelling abroad as well. There is a success story about the island-hopping cruise. During the pandemic, the Dream Cruise Lines collaborated with domestic travel operators to promote island-hopping cruise to travel around Taiwan’s islands. Its “Explorer Dream” cruise ship has been a successful example to become an island-hopping cruise sailing around Taiwan’s islands. It was widely applauded as the first cruise ship in the world to resume sailing after the onset of the pandemic.

The tourism industry plays an important role to Belize and because of the impact of COVID-19, the Belizean tourism industry and its related sectors have been severely tested, but still remain resilient and tenacious!  Therefore, when we knew Belize had established the Tourism Golden Standard Recognition Program to welcome the reopening of the Philip Goldson International Airport, we extended our good will gesture to BTIA by contributing 4,000 pieces of Made-in-Taiwan surgical masks to protect the health of its dedicated and professional members of the Belizean tourism sectors for their services and contribution to recover the economy.


Life is up and down. Although the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet, we should remain faithful and be prepared for the incremental progress and any positive development. As time goes by, we keep hearing good news about vaccines. Even now it is still difficult to travel around the world, we know well that Taiwan’s Caribbean diplomatic allies are refocusing on the re-booming of tourism and welcoming back international visitors. It proves that these countries are very attractive. Therefore, a Caribbean and Pacific Region Tourism and Agriculture Products Reception-under the theme 〝Visit Secret Land of the allied countries of The Caribbean and Pacific Regions After The Epidemic,” was held on November 5 in Taipei. A letter of Intent to promote tourism was signed by the Taiwan Quality Assurance Association and the Belize Tourism Industry Association. The purpose of the LOI is to promote mutual collaboration, exchange experiences, and share information on tourism. We would continue to increase the tourism exposure rate with Taiwanese travel agencies, particularly showcasing the unparalleled beauty of Belize and bridging with the outstanding tourism industry of Belize. On top of the exchange of our private sectors, our two governments also signed a “LETTER OF INTENT ON FRAMEWORK OF TOURISM COOPERATION” last year when both countries celebrated the 30th anniversary of the establishment of our diplomatic relationship.


Going forward, it’s foreseeable that pandemic prevention will become a new normal of our daily lives. As long as we have fully prepared ourselves, we should never feel pessimistic.  We strongly believe that a new record for world tourism will certainly be set soon after the pandemic subsides.


In closing, I offer my best wishes to the great success and continued health of Minister Mahler, CEO Solano and of course the leadership team and all of the members of BTIA!  Belize poised itself with abundant and splendid natural wonders and beauties. Geographically close to North America, Belize has much greater potential than Taiwan to further develop your tourism industry and attract more worldwide tourists to discover this jewel of the crown. I have traveled a lot in Belize in the past two years, but you still have so much more to offer for me and millions of visitors to explore and experience. For the foreseen future, the tourism industry will remain one of the most important industries in Belize.


It’s December now and Christmas is approaching. Let us be grateful for what we have received from God and from each other. Thank you again for having me and wish all of our friends’ joy and happiness! God bless Belize, Taiwan, and BTIA! Thank you!