Contract signed for tourism village

After a number of false starts a
contract has finally been signed
for the establishment of a
tourism village at Belize City's
Fort Point. The agreement
between the government,
Tourism Board and a private
group headed by businessman
Mike Feinstein, was delayed by six months of
wrangling over details, but construction is now
slated to begin in January. Minister of Tourism Mark
Espat told News 5 that the deal is a solid one for all

Mark Espat, Minister of Tourism
"The concept of a tourism village is one whereby there
would be a focal point for passengers who disembark
from the tenders that bring them ashore from the
cruise ships to a specific point. In this case we have
chosen the former customs department grounds at
Fort Point in Belize City. The village as it is now
conceived in the agreement, is not a partnership any
more between the government and the developer, the
Feinstein Group Belize Tourism Village Ltd. Rather, the
agreement is now one where the investor has
purchased the property from the government and has
committed to investing some ten million Belize dollars
to develop a main cruise terminal, a water taxi
terminal and various auxiliary services including
restaurants, bars, duty-free shopping, regular
shopping, arts and crafts distribution, entertainment
and so one."

"We are pleased to say that the final agreement takes
into account all of the concerns, the issues, that were
brought up during our various consultations public and
with the stakeholders. For example, the Cruise Taxi
Association will be allowed to operate from the
village, the small crafts artisans and vendors currently
at the Memorial Park will be provided with
concessionary rates and a special area in the village
to sell their products. The BTB will maintain all of its
regular tourists functions including fixing the rate of
the tax, collecting the tax, negotiating with ships that
call on Belize and overall, enforcing the National
Cruise Policy, which is a collaborative product of
private and public sector."

Stewart Krohn
"How does that fit in to the country's overall tourism

Mark Espat
"Clearly our priority is overnight tourism. It is more
lucrative, it is less taxing on our resources, natural
and otherwise in the long-term. But cruise tourism is
an important source of revenue, there are hundred of
Belizeans, taxi drivers, tour guides, tour operators,
that earn a decent living from the cruise industry. And
so what we've been attempting to do is to reach a
balance where we direct a majority of our resources
and our efforts to developing overnight tourism, which
has grown this year by nine percent up until the end
of October when we were affected by Hurricane Keith.
But cruise tourism is also important and that has
grown by sixty-four percent this year, fifty-seven
thousand versus thirty-four thousand last year. We
don't want it to become our primary source of
revenue, I think it has to complement the more
sustainable overnight tourism, but it is an important
source of revenue.

The company will pay government three million
Belize dollars for the property at the old customs
wharf totaling just over two acres. One point five
million will be paid on January fifteenth with the
remainder over the next five years. the BTB will
also receive four hundred thousand dollars per year
from a head tax on cruise tourists, based on a
target of sixty thousand arrivals. BTB will also have
a seat on the company's board of directors. Phase
one of the project is targeted for completion in
October of 2001.