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Central  Standard Time Zone UTC-06:00

 Capital City Belmopan

 Currency Belize dollar BZD

National Day  10 September

Her Excellency Therese Rath
Belize High Commission
45 Crawford Place
London W1H 4LP
T: 020 7723 3603
T: 020 7723 9637
E: info@belizehighcommission.co.uk


Belize’s new High Commissioner Her Excellency Therese Rath arrived in the UK in July with her husband, nature photographer Tony Rath. Their children remain at home running the family hotel business. Her Excellency’s work/life balance has so far been relatively in sync. “I married an adventurer, so when I’m not working, I follow. In the short time we’ve been here, I’ve seen Stonehenge and spotted Windrush graffiti in Bristol. My sister also lives in Bedfordshire, so I try to be open to the adventures my family provide me with.”

The High Commissioner believes her “lifestyle and family upbringing has very much prepared [her] for this role.” Her grandfather built a hotel in the small town where she grew up, and her family ran it. “Travellers interested in natural history were attracted to the area, boosted by the opening of the world’s first Jaguar Reserve, Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, a few years later.” When the World Wildlife Fund hosted a workshop at the hotel, the High Commissioner “was converted, kicking off a lifelong passion for conservation.”

Meanwhile, the Smithsonian Institution from Washington DC had chosen a small island owned by her grandfather for a marine lab. “They settled there and have been our tenants for 45 years.” It was there that she met her husband, who was posted as the station manager. “The marine life is very special. Belize has the longest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere, second only to Australia.”

High Commissioner Rath has been the Managing Director of the family business, Pelican Beach Resorts since 1984, across two locations: ‘inland adventure’ in Dangriga and ‘island paradise’ on South Water Caye. Alongside this, Mrs Rath has held many Public Service roles throughout her career, most notably Chair of the Belize Tourism Board, President of the Belize Hotel Association, President of the Belize Audubon Society (Belize’s oldest conservation organisation), and founding member of Board of the Directors of Programme for Belize managing over 300,000 acres of land in northern Belize. “Belize is a special place in terms of natural resources. Over 60 per cent of our land has protected area status, and we have the largest cave system in Central America. Of the cruise lines that come to the area, Belize has the highest disembarkation rate in the Caribbean, because there is so much to do! Tony’s photographs do a great job of documenting Belize’s natural beauty.”

Throughout her career, she says “I’ve been able to pull the various synergies together to fight to maintain the authenticity of Belize’s product: the value, rareness and beauty of Belize’s natural resources.” A spell as Senator of the National Assembly of Belize was good training for diplomacy.

Now in office for almost 100 days, High Commissioner Rath explains that her priority in the UK “is to explore the opportunities here that match Belize’s needs. We need economic and technical assistance. We are looking for investment but need to be realistic and targeted to attract the UK’s attention. We must maintain the preferential arrangements our sugar and banana industries have with the UK government.” She’ll gather scholarships, and technical assistance for training mental health workers. “These tasks can seem overwhelming, but given the size of our population, a little impact can go a long way.” She has confidence that Brexit should provide “an opportunity for increased cooperation and a closer working relationship, especially because we are a member of the Commonwealth family, and CARICOM.” She continues: “Working in tourism, we were trying to get people to visit Belize, and our strategy was to present who we were and do it with sincerity. That training is giving me the confidence to operate in this environment and it’s much easier to sell something you love. The objective is to make people fall in love with Belize.”

She expects a large delegation for COP26. “Small island states seem to contribute the least to the problem, but will suffer the most from climate change. As CARICOM’s Climate Change Centre is based in Belize, we have the technical expertise to provide substance behind what we are saying, and we are passionate about this.”

The health pandemic remains a critical issue for Belize. “We too have lost our income, but we are a step or two behind when it comes to vaccines. Our health service has struggled, and our schools have still not reopened.” With regards to tourism, workers were made frontline staff, so they are all vaccinated. “This provided security and comfort for the market, and travellers from the US are back. But we need direct flights from the UK to reinvigorate the market.”

She recalls the memorable day that Belize gained independence: 21 September 1981. “At a ceremony at Government House in Belize City, the Union Jack was lowered, and the Belize flag raised against the backdrop of the sea. The sense of patriotism was strong and being part of that was very special.”

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