The Federation of Cruise Tourism Associations of Belize (FECTAB) added to the public discourse on government’s recent decision to sign an MOU with Norwegian Cruise Line. Monday morning, members of FECTAB were guests on Rise and Shine. David Almendarez says that Cruise Ship Operators are out to monopolize the tourism industry to benefit themselves.
Whenever a cruise ship comes to Belize, or when a cruise ship sails from their port, the objective of the cruise ship is to maximize, keep most of the money in the cruise ship. These guys have been around for a long time. They have mastered the situation. Just this morning I was reading about the Cruise Ship Industry, and we need to follow that this is a Cruise Ship Industry that has been losing money. So we have desperate people on two sides. We have cruise ship owners who are desperate to create new “exotic” [locations]. If they build an island in Belize, they’re going to market it as Belize. In reality, that’s Norwegian. That’s an extension of the ship. So whatever money is spent on that island stays on the ship. That is what the Cruise Ship Industry has been trying to master for a long time.
Yoni Rosado is also an active member of FECTAB and the owner of cavetubing.com. He says that a picture has been painted as if FECTAB is against tourism going to the south. Rosado explains that this is not so.
Yoni Rosado – Owner of cavetubing.com:
I’m here today to make sure that people from the South don’t be getting the message that FECTAB is against the cruise ship going to the South. I want the cruise ship. If it’s me, I’ll put my vote, the cruise ship goes to the South, but let them be owners, and let them enjoy what we in the city could not enjoy. I don’t see most city people owning businesses because of the cruise line. This is the next point I want to make: Remember if the cruise ship goes South, there’ll be tour guides, tour organizations from Corozal travelling to the South. So what happened to Jaguar Paw Road is not by city people it’s by people coming from Placencia, coming from PG, coming from Corozal, coming from all over the country, to a little road, and the Government is not doing its job protecting the Highway. Please understand, learn from our mistake. Learn from what the cruise ships have done in the city. It’s not well managed. It’s not well organized.
Tom Greenwood is the president of FECTAB and for him, he says the issue is a deeper one.
Tom Greenwood – President of FECTAB:
Where I’m concerned, it goes deeper than just the Cruise Industry. Where I live is this puzzling notion that native Belizean have to fight, struggle, against the very entity that they have put in power to take care of us. I think it’s going to remain that way for a while until the system changes, but more importantly until the hearts of Belizeans change, to understand that this is a one-stop shopping centre for tourism. Belize outshines every country in the entire Western Hemisphere. [It’s] English-speaking, democratic, you’ve got Spanish speaking, in fact we’ve got eleven cultures in Belize, all living peacefully. We have Mayan sites galore. We have a fairly good road system, until you get to Caves Branch. We have a people who are tolerant. That’s where the problem lies. We are too tolerant. It is time we get up and say, no, that is not going to happen that way, and if you try to make it happen that way, guess what? Ten thousand of us will stand here and make noise.
According to David Almendarez, overnight tourism is the backbone of the Tourism Industry in Belize and the Government will eventually harm the industry negatively if changes are not made to make the system a more holistic one to include all Belizeans.
Nothing is wrong with cruise ship tourism, but we need to bear in mind, what is the bulk of your industry? Do you want the regular folks coming, or do you want the premium customer who brings the wife, the family, the kids? I have had people, a family of ten. They come every year, ordinary folks. Every year they come and do cave-tubing, Lamanai, Altun Ha. So I said last time, let’s change it us. He said, no, don’t change it up. That’s what we come here for. And they always book on days when there’s no cruise ship in port. That is important. The overnight passengers have come to the point now that they ask me, when are the cruise ships in port? Then my Government says, let’s do a bigger thing down South. It’s like, you build your house, and the best parts are the living room, the kitchen, and everything and your kids can’t use it. And you have one guy who comes, [saying] I am a big rich guy. Oh, you’re a big rich guy? Open up the door. You can use everything. Kids stay outside. Use everything that you want.
The MOU between Government and NCL is in relation to a Cruise Terminal which is to be built by the NCL on Harvest Caye, which is located just south of Placencia.