The cruise tourism season starts right after Thanksgiving in the United States and this year, there's going to be a big change in Belize. That's because the Belize tourism board is shaking things up outside the Fort Street Tourism Village - where for the first time in 11 years, they hope to institute an orderly system - turning the place that's been called a tourist trap into a properly managed tourism zone.

This is the product of a long series of consultations with users and stakeholders and the effort was formally launched on Saturday morning at Old Belize and 7news was there to find out how it will work:…

Seleni Matus, Director of Tourism
"People want change. There is never a good time for change but its here and it starts today."

That message was sent out to what you might call a tough room - a crowd of taxi operators, food vendors, tour guides, hair braiders and other operators even the FECTAB President and the bane of his existence - the owners and managers of Chukka tours - all sharing the same space and all being told change is coming, now by policy makers and political leaders.

Seleni Matus, Director of Tourism
"From a governmental standpoint it's critical for us to be able to work without operators in this area and it's about 1500 and that's very conservative people that are relying on cruise tourism right now daily for their livelihoods. For us to work with you to ensure that we are creating that space that people feel comfortable coming into."

And surveys from visitors say that right now it is far from comfortable:

Seleni Matus, Director of Tourism
"Cruise passengers have consistently rated as the number one destination for tours, so we know that our product is unparallel and that we have something very good to offer. That's consistent. At the same time though those same cruise passengers want to come to Belize City and walk around and see what we have to offer and buy tours from the independents' often leave with a very bad perception of Belize and actually we are consistently rated as the worst destination in that regard."

But don't be mistaken, all that applause and those hearty laughs and warm smiles weren't for the raft of changes. The event was dubbed a rally so there was a game show and prizes given away.

That may have lightened things, but the message and the motive is clear, things must change:

Seleni Matus, Director of Tourism
"It's going unaddressed for 11 years. Clearly there is a lot of entrenched views and practices out there but we knew that there was one thing that would move all of us in the right direction and that was that we wanted to ensure and i am sure all of you here feel the same that we want to show our country and our place in the best light possible and at the same time you want to make as much as you can from cruise tourism and at the same time from a tourism board standpoint we want to make sure that those cruise passengers that are coming here leave with such a good experience that they want to come back time and time again."

Operationally it will translate into a complete change from business as usual:

Lloyd Enriquez
"We're looking at improve traffic flow systems, we are looking at the establishment of the dispatch booths at the various gates next to the FSTV, so that when guest come out they will interface with a dispatcher."

That means guests will no longer be directly approached and solicited by tour guides, hair braiders and others - that is now the duty of the dispatcher:

Lloyd Enriquez
"Once the dispatcher has a very good idea of what tour the guest wants to take, that person who is on the rotation in line will be able to close that sale, will be able to approach and to close that sale and to give more details as to the tour or whatever it is. But all 10,15,20 people will not be able to approach, only that person who it is first in line will be able approach and to close the sale."

That was a cause for concern for some:

Hair braider
"Belize is supposed to be free, I don't agree with this zoning thing. I guess i will have to work with it if I don't have any other choice, but I don't agree because i need to be free, I need to be around to convince and to go to the next person because at the end of the day when I go home to my kids I can't tell them BTB got me zone off, BTB got me in a cage, I can't tell none of that. Hair braiders people - they always want to push us to the back because they say we are loud and ghetto, they always wants to push us to the back, So I want to know, we weren't free before because the police is always harassing us. We don't get a chance at the gate, taxi service, horse and carriage and tour guides gets a chance at the gate except the hair braiders. So if it is like this already, just imagine when you zone us off? What will we do, how will we eat?"

Lloyd Enriquez
"Let's sit down, let's put our ideas together and see what will work for you - what will work for us and will work for the visitors to our shores. As I said earlier, there is a solution to every problem."

There had better be - otherwise this - the best initiative yet - will also fail:

Seleni Matus, Director of Tourism
"And we hope that you will have the patience to walk this journey with us because if we don't we will not be capturing as much as we can from cruise tourism."

And to make sure the commitment is concrete, all operators are required to sign unto a code of conduct before they get these shirts which authorize them to operate in the Fort Street Tourism Zone.

Seleni Matus, Director of Tourism
"In these incremental steps we are hoping to be able to show the world that we can accomplish change."

The new system will be tested on Wednesday, the first ship day for this week….

Channel 7