Yahoo Travel, a highly rated travel blog, published an article on Tuesday entitled the Worst Caribbean Ports of Call for Cruises and Belize is listed as number three.
The article highlights the fact that there is no Cruise port in Belize; and while the article does concede that there are things to do outside City bounds, it describes the old Capital as dreary with nothing to do.
It also says that, “Ships do not actually dock here; they anchor off and use tenders to carry passengers to town, or sometimes directly to activities on nearby tiny islands.” and while that might be true, the Government, in January of this year, after receiving much heat from local activists, gave Fienstein’s Stake Bank Project the green light.
The Prime Minister explained the bill presented in January 2014. He said that “The idea is to locate the new cruise port there [at State Bank] and in fact to build the causeway to Belize City. All relevant environmental impact assessments have been submitted and had been examined by the Department of the Environment. It appears that the developer has the financing lined up and so with the passage of this bill after we come back to the House on the next occasion – it appears that construction will start imminently.”
The bill also exempted the developer from income tax and GST for a period of 20 years, and gives provision for the facility to be declared the port of entry of Belize. Furthermore, the provision allows the developer to collect cargo dues and a port development fee for those which shall be shared between the Government and the Developer.
The development of the project should have been underway by now, but the project has been at a standstill for months because of a complicated web of lawsuits and counter lawsuits.
The People’s United Party has added its voice to those calling for a solution to the issues of the cruise tourism industry.
Earlier this month, inclement weather forced the cancellations of five cruise ship visits to Belize City, losing nearly $3 million in revenue.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow has been cautious, but Hon. Francis Fonseca says bold leadership is needed.
“All of the stakeholders in the tourism industry have agreed that this is a critical issue. We’re facing an imminent deadline, and everyone in the tourism industry understands that we need to address this issue.
There are many things that play. There are legal issues as well.
So. it’s a complex issue, but it’s certainly an issue that needs to be addressed very urgently in the interests of the tourism sector.”
Francis Fonseca says his party has no dog in the fight, despite the exclusivity contract for Fort Street Tourism Village being signed by former Prime Minister Said Musa.
“From what I know of the matter, as I understand it, the principals involved have all gone to the Government and said, ‘Listen. We are prepared to work out a settlement of this matter.’
So I think there’s good will on all sides, to find a soultion, because everyone knows that it is the entire country, and the entire industry, that stands to lose, if we don’t find a solution.
So I think there is good faith on all sides, and we certainy want to be a part of finding a solution. We want to be a positive factor in this issue. So we’re not afraid to touch it, but it’s a issue that has to be resolved between these principlals and the government. I think the Prime Minister spoke about it, in terms of wanting an indemnity from Mr. Fienstien, and him not wanting to give that indemnity. That seems to be the sticking point right now. I think they have to find a way to resolve that.”