We told you on Thursday night that the report has been completed on the controversial issue of cruise ship tourism for southern Belize, specifically the Placencia Peninsula. In a nutshell, the consultants recommend that Belize should not approve a new port of call due to the environmental impact and because southern communities are not ready to take on mass tourism. Government hasn’t yet spoken on the just released consultancy report, but the Placencia B.T.I.A. is applauding the recommendations. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
The idea of introducing cruise tourism to the coastal village of Placencia was a plan that was met with a great degree of opposition from its inception. The Belize Tourism Board in October of last year held a public consultation with residents of the area whose sentiments were resounding in their objection to the proposal. Following that meeting B.T.B. hired Rich Wilson of Seatone Consultants to assess the viability of cruise tourism in Southern Belize. The findings, which are published on B.T.B.’s website, reflect the views of stakeholders in the south. Chairman of the Placencia chapter of the Belize Tourism Industry Association, Stewart Krohn quoted from the report and says that the results are accurate.
Stewart Krohn, Chairman, B.T.I.A.-Placencia
“There is widespread skepticism and resistance to development of a mass tourism cruise model in southern Belize. That’s one of his key findings. Some of his other key findings are that there are great concerns about the potential environmental damage. There are key findings about [the fact] that cruise tourism would have a definite negative effect on the existing overnight tourism. There are questions about the infrastructure. I mean he has given it a very thorough airing and I think the conclusion he’s come to is that even people who were somewhat disposed towards even very small cruise ships in Placencia even they had very serious doubts about what the impact might be.”
According to Krohn, government should take into serious consideration the findings of the assessment and focus its attention on looking for other means of tourism for the south.
“I think the main point now is really to, with the publishing of this report and hopefully a decision by the government that cruise tourism is really not a good fit for Placencia and we need to explore other alternatives. I think the important thing to note is where we go from here and as you were aware, you spent time in Placencia; you were at the public consultation. There was a very, it was a very controversial issue and the village was somewhat divided if not specifically on the cruise tourism proposal at least the controversy opened certain differences among members of the community.”
Many, including Krohn, believe that the issue has left a bitter taste in the mouths of Placencia residents.
“The controversy also tended to make many of us in the tourism sector very skeptical of Belize Tourism Board, of the tourism ministry and even the government of Belize in general as we thought that they didn’t really deal with us on a straight up basis. But I think the important thing now is to move forward. We have to engage with our own people in the village to put aside our differences and become unified to chart a course that we want to see for the future of the peninsula.”
Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.
This afternoon, a joint statement was issued by the Placencia Village Council, it’s Tour Guide and Tour Operator Associations as well as the B.T.I.A., saying it is now the umbrella organization, which will take a proactive and comprehensive approach to the future of tourism and infrastructural development in the peninsula.