If we didn’t know any better, the images of long lines of vehicles heading to the northern border could appear like some kind of mass exile from Belize. But there was no human repatriation going on; what there was is BUEN FIN – an entire weekend when Mexican businesses offer hard-to-beat promotions to their customers. Those promotions were apparently significant enough to attract Belizeans by the thousands to the neighbouring city of Chetumal to make use of the deals.
According to Immigration officials, some 15,000 Belizeans crossed the border, with some 12,000 heading directly to Chetumal to shop. That’s a major figure considering that 7,000 is what normally crosses the border on a normal basis.
But while the numbers are shocking, the images of lines of cars to the border were the longest we’ve seen. Nearly four miles of cars, with Belizeans having to wait over two hours for their turn to cross the border and enter Chetumal.
We are told a number of factors caused the delay; including a new system of immigration points that have been established which now sees Belizeans being able to stamp their passports without having to exit their vehicles. But without proper announcement to Belizeans, the result was chaotic. Still, Belizeans just couldn’t resist Buen Fin.
There is also an economic impact that is bad news for Belize. If every Belizean spends an average of $200 in Chetumal, we’re speaking of a total of $2.4 million dollars of revenue drained out of Belize. That’s significant considering the economic troubles our country is facing. The local business community attempted to stem the Buen Fin tide with its own version of Black Friday last Friday, but early reports of the impact indicate nothing close to those long lines of Belizeans flocking to Chetumal.