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#382548 - 03/14/06 04:45 PM love those cruise lines
Marty Offline
From the Los Angeles Times
Buoyant Belize Cruise Trade May Sink Paradise
The fast-growing port is bringing boatloads of traffic that is changing the tiny nation.
By Marla Dickerson
Times Staff Writer

March 13, 2006

BELIZE CITY, Belize — For years, tour organizer Lascelle Tillett has been leading nature lovers to see rare Morelet's crocodiles, stately Jabiru storks and other wonders in this tiny Caribbean nation.

So it came as something of a shock when he ferried a small party to a spot near Belize's coral reef two years ago and encountered a floating mob.

"There must have been 600 people in the water, and the boats were lined up like cars," said Tillett, director of S&L Travel & Tours. "We didn't see a single [sting] ray or shark."

Such aquatic traffic jams are becoming more frequent — and contentious — in laid-back Belize since the arrival of a new species of visitor: the cruise-ship passenger. The number of big boats stopping here has increased nearly fivefold since 2000, making Belize the fastest-growing tourist port in the Caribbean.

Last year, more than 800,000 cruise ship visitors disembarked in this gritty seafront city, according to the local tourist board. That's nearly triple the nation's population of 280,000.

The surge has been a boon to taxi drivers, hair braiders and other bootstraps entrepreneurs who, like seagulls behind a tuna boat, flock to the waterfront when passengers come ashore. Ship visitors poured an estimated $65 million into the local economy in 2004. That's nearly one-fifth of all tourist dollars spent in Belize, up from virtually nothing five years ago.

Investors are taking aim at these sightseers, whose tight itineraries leave them little more than half a day to see Belize. Entertainment is proliferating, including air-boat rides, a casino and a crocodile farm. Tour operators have purchased fleets of vans and buses that burn rubber to the nearest Mayan ruins.

"When I see an opportunity, I grasp it," said David Gegg, who has formed a tour company called Cruise Solutions Belize Ltd. "You have to adapt."

But other longtime operators say the herd mentality is at odds with Belize's carefully crafted niche as an eco-tourism paradise. Overnight guests, many of whom spend weeks scuba diving, kayaking and exploring the archeological sites of this nation the size of Massachusetts, provide the lion's share of Belize's tourism revenue. Hoteliers say those visitors want solitude and unspoiled wilderness, not hordes of Disneyland-style day trippers swarming the pyramids and scaring the wildlife.

The fear is that big-spending adventure travelers will no longer come if Belize is too welcoming of mass tourism, particularly if it draws more and more cruise ship visitors, who have gained a reputation here as skinflints.

The average cruise passenger spends about $45 in Belize, less than half the Caribbean average, according to the Belize Tourism Board. Some experts say that's largely because Belize lacks modern docking facilities that would allow passengers to spend more time ashore. At present, ships must anchor offshore and "tender" passengers into Belize City on smaller vessels, a costly and time-consuming process for these floating cities of 3,000 to 4,000 people.

But some hoteliers say that many cruises are priced for bargain hunters looking for freebies. Maria Otero, chief executive director of the Radisson Fort George Hotel and Marina near the cruise ship village, said passengers routinely stroll into her facility to use the bathroom and take a dip in the pool, then complain about the cost of refreshments. She said she had to draw the line at their bringing in their own booze and snacks.

Others are worried about the environmental impact. Although cruise travelers each pay a $7 visitor's tax, $1.40 of which is earmarked for conservation, the nation's coral reefs and more heavily trafficked wilderness areas are showing signs of wear and tear from the increased visitation, said Anna Dominguez-Hoare, executive director of the Belize Audubon Society.

"It's not compensating for the damage," she said of the tax. "And a lot of damage could be irreversible so quickly."

Belize isn't the only place feeling the strain. Three of the Caribbean's most popular ports, Cozumel, Mexico; the Cayman Islands and St. Maarten, have seen cruise visitor counts surge more than 70% over the last five years. Locals and overnight visitors around the region complain of traffic snarls, jammed restaurants and booked-up attractions when the ships blow into town.

The gridlock is likely to get worse. More and bigger ships are in the pipeline, including some capable of carrying 6,000 passengers.

Experts point to a variety of factors driving the business, including the ease and comfort of cruises for aging baby boomers and the fallout from Sept. 11, which prompted cruise lines to put more vessels into the region to mollify jittery Americans looking to stay closer to home.

Belize opened a cruise ship village with shops and better docking facilities in 2002 to capitalize on the trend. Passenger traffic skyrocketed that year, jumping 600%. Though such a torrid pace can't and didn't continue, developers see plenty of room for growth — to well above 1 million passengers. With that in mind, two groups are working on plans to upgrade the docks.

The biggest stems from a partnership between Carnival Cruise Lines and a local businessman to construct a $50-million terminal. The project, however, has generated significant controversy here.

Signed by Belizean Prime Minister Said Musa and cloaked in secrecy, the terminal contract was leaked to the media in late 2004. The transaction generated a swift outcry from the tourism sector, which accused federal officials of trying to evade existing policies aimed at regulating the industry and limiting its growth.

The Belize Tourism Industry Assn. in November 2004 asked the Supreme Court to review the contract, challenging the prime minister's right to approve the deal without public consultation. That proceeding is still tied up in court. But the association's demand for an injunction on construction was denied, so the project has moved forward.

Slated to open in 2007, the cruise passenger terminal will feature high-end shopping, restaurants and other mall-like diversions for a largely middle-class clientele unaccustomed to the rough edges and sparse amenities of Belize City, according to Luke Espat, the Belizean developer. He said the goal was to make passengers feel comfortable, give them more time ashore to spend money and lure them back for a longer stay.

"This is 1850 California. It's a gold rush," Espat said. "If our people aren't prepared to be a part of it, they will lose their stake in the future."

Entrepreneurs such as Adelma Broaster agree. The 33-year-old mother of two sells watercolor artwork, handmade dolls, cashew wine and other products of local artisans at a stall in the cruise village. She said she can take in $1,000 on a good day, a fourfold increase that she credits to passengers.

"They're rude sometimes, but I don't mind," Broaster said. "The bottom line is that I'm making money, and so is everyone else out here."

But others fear that Belize is killing its golden goose.

Tillett of S&L Travel, a bird lover who can identify many of the 600 native and migrating species he says can be found in Belize, shakes his head at the memory of hundreds of snorkeling cruise tourists standing on the coral and frightening the fish.

"We are destroying the very things that people are coming to see," Tillett said. "Money and greed are powerful forces."

#382549 - 03/14/06 04:50 PM Re: love those cruise lines
Bobber Offline
Hmmmm? Deja Vu. Sounds kinda like what they are doing in Roatan.
Been there, done that, the washing machine ate the T-shirt

#382550 - 03/14/06 04:56 PM Re: love those cruise lines
PalapaBob Offline
"We are destroying the very things that people are coming to see," Tillett said. "Money and greed are powerful forces."

Enough said
I've already told you more than I know.

#382551 - 03/14/06 05:46 PM Re: love those cruise lines
reaper Offline
I can see Corona Steve's floating cruise ship terminal of the north already with a McDonalds, Pay Less Shoes, Krispy Kream, Planet Hollywood and Wal Mart.......UUGGHHH!

#382552 - 03/14/06 08:30 PM Re: love those cruise lines
bywarren Offline
800,000 cruise passengers spending $45 each equals $65 Million. No wonder I have trouble helping my grand daughther with her math home work. :rolleyes:

#382553 - 03/14/06 10:15 PM Re: love those cruise lines
atomicindy Offline
There is a time when one should realize more money now will lead to a poorer Belize in the future. People can be greedy and take as much money as they want from whomever wants to give it to them. Doing this will destroy Belize for the future generations. One wust be very carefull how much change is good for Belize.

#382554 - 03/14/06 10:18 PM Re: love those cruise lines
yat Offline
"But others fear that Belize is killing its golden goose."

How sadly true this statement is.

The saying going around New Orleans, the city where I was born, is that New Orleans will never be the same.

The same can be said for our Ambergris Caye. It will never be like it was. Some people say good, some people say bad. I say sad.


#382555 - 03/15/06 02:31 AM Re: love those cruise lines
Short Offline

Public release date: 14-Mar-2006
Contact: Jason Anderson
Conservation International

Report finds cruise industry is protecting the precious places it visits
Cruise lines, governments, civil society and shore operators contributing to better stewardship of environmentally sensitive cruise destinations

The major players in the cruise industry, including cruise lines, local governments and shore operators – in collaboration with civil society organizations - are taking proactive measures to ensure a sustainable future for cruise tourism while preserving cruise destinations, according to a new report titled From Ship to Shore: Sustainable Stewardship in Cruise Destinations issued by Conservation International's (CI) Center for Environmental Leadership in Business (CELB).

From Ship to Shore examines the shared responsibilities among cruise lines, governments, civil society groups and shore operators to manage the growth and expansion of the cruise industry into sensitive ecosystems. The report also profiles leadership examples of how these stakeholders are taking tangible steps to ensure a sustainable future for cruise tourism, while maintaining the natural and cultural integrity of cruise destinations.

"As cruise lines expand their ports-of-call, it is important to not only identify the environmental challenges facing the tourism industry, but to also highlight the sustainable practices that are being employed in these destinations," said Jamie Sweeting, co-author of From Ship to Shore, and senior director for travel and leisure at CELB. "This helps to ensure that the positive actions being taken can be sustained over time and replicated by others who operate in environmentally sensitive cruise destinations."

From Ship to Shore provides several case examples of successful environmental and cultural management in popular cruise destinations including:

Philanthropic funds created by the cruise lines invest in local communities' efforts to establish cultural attractions and fund conservation groups working to protect sensitive destinations.
Grupo Xcaret, a private company, purchased and leased lands from the Mexican government to develop natural and cultural theme parks along the Caribbean coast of Mexico.
Several cruise lines have installed scientific laboratories on its ships to help scientists conduct research on vital marine and climate issues.
The Government of Belize established a small visitor tax to generate sustainable financing that supports the management of the country's parks and protected areas.
On board, cruise passengers are offered an array of educational programs on local regulations, local resources and protected areas, appropriate behavior, and species-specific guidelines and information.
The St. Lucia Heritage Tourism Programme, a community-based initiative of the St. Lucia Ministry of Tourism, provides support to community activities that promote heritage tourism products and services.
Atlantis Adventures operates electric submarine tours in 13 destinations, including cruise destinations throughout the Caribbean and Hawaii, offering a non-invasive way to explore marine ecosystems.
"Although cruise tourism has the potential to overwhelm fragile destinations if not managed effectively, the industry is also a great potential ally for conservation, because many cruise passengers are attracted by the opportunity to experience new places and cultures," stated Russell Mittermeier, president of CI, in the From Ship to Shore Foreword.

The report also makes specific recommendations for how these groups can more effectively work together to manage increased cruise passenger visits while minimizing negative environmental, cultural and societal impacts. Examples of these recommendations include:

Cruise Lines: Cruise lines should work with local governments and community organizations to develop effective management plans for destinations; educate passengers and crew on ways to support conservation through actions and behaviors; invest in local conservation and community development projects; and choose and promote environmentally and culturally responsible shore operators and recreation providers to serve their passengers.
Governments: Governments should examine creative financing tools such as trust funds, or concession agreements that provide revenue and establish better management practices; charge entrance fees to protected areas and ensure that the revenues from those fees go back into the management of those sites; and develop infrastructure that supports responsible natural and cultural tour operations.
Civil Society: Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) must facilitate wider collaboration among a broad range of stakeholders to raise awareness and develop cooperative programs, tours and initiatives; contribute to sustainability through local training and capacity building; and help organize local communities to capture revenue from increased tourism, through local handicrafts, community-owned businesses, excursions and other ventures.
Shore Operators: Shore excursion operators can share and promote voluntary good practices, and develop protocols for peer enforcement of local guidelines and regulations; form partnerships with local communities and indigenous people in order to include cultural elements in their shore excursions; implement standard operating procedures to ensure minimal negative impact on the local environment and cultures; and educate tourists about specific local regulations, laws, customs and needs.
The cruise industry has grown rapidly in recent years, with average annual increases in passenger numbers of 8.2 percent over the last two decades. More than 11 million passengers sailed on cruise ships in 2005. Between 2000 and 2004, 62 new ships were introduced to the North American market alone and another 20 are expected to come into service by 2009.

Of the top 30 cruise destinations in the world, 20 are located in the Caribbean and Mediterranean, two important biodiversity hotspots. Among these, the 10 most popular ports are all found in the Caribbean basin, which includes South Florida, the Caribbean islands, Mexico and Central America – areas that are home to unique and threatened species and habitats.
Live and let live

#382556 - 03/15/06 08:35 AM Re: love those cruise lines
Corona Steve Offline
Reaper, I for one will hold the line on Krispy Kream, and McDonalds, and any chain like stores, but will promote the Corona Freeway to the North, including a bridge to Mexico, the bridge North, would be my escape from overcrowding, and rude visitors, and to import Corona Beer to my future Resort, Casa Del Corona, which will be painted bright Yellow to bring attention to My Corona.
Actually, I should be promoting the cruise ships to anchore off of the reef, in front of Casa Del Corona town center and bring in the passangers to shop there. Thus saving time and money.
All joking aside, the ships do bring in some needed cash to Belize, rather than the other ports of call. A better tax base for the country, and maybe a cleaner Belize City.
Will be in AC next Wed, the 22, and back home on Sunday. So little time, but anytime in Paradise is better than none. Might stop at BC,s for a Belikin or three. and cross the new bridge and head north to see the progress, if any of elect comming to my 6.6 Acres just south of Sueno Del Mar.
No spell check on the new firefox hook up, still have to down load it.

#382557 - 03/15/06 11:00 AM Re: love those cruise lines
Xoe Offline
Regardless how much talk and effort are devoted to how the cruise industry plans, expects, and/or hopes to mitigate damage to their destination ports, so long as the NUMBER and SIZE of ships continues to increase at the projected rate, Belize and other "popular" cruise ports are in danger of losing their unique qualities and flavor -- their "golden eggs". Nothing the industry can do will overcome what happens when a huge cruise ship (or several at once as now happens on many summer days at Alaska ports) brings to the dock of a small town thousands of visitors all at once. Under those conditions, much of what the traveler has come to see is lost in the crowd -- lost not only to the cruise ship passengers, but also to other travelers and residents.

Yes, it brings money. One more step in the progression of human beings overwhelming so many of the world's most beautiful places, thereby destroying what we most loved about those places -- for money.

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