It is no doubt that tourism is one of the biggest income generators for Belize’s economy. The debate lies in how tourism is brought and what the attraction is and although Belize City has been the hub for cruise ship arrivals, an up-roar has been stirred with the idea of cruise tourism in the south. Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced in an interview that the Norwegian Cruise Line which was being contemplated as a possible avenue to bring tourists to the south has gotten a big no no. Last week Love News spoke with a member of the Placencia Tour Guide Association who was concerned about some statements allegedly made by Minister Hulse to other media that the Association had agreed for cruise tourism in the south. The Tour Guide told us that the Association has never agreed for large cruise ships to arrive in the south, explaining that they did say they were willing to accept small boats of like two hundred and fifty tourists but that large tourism ships were not acceptable. But it appears that the sentiment isn’t shared by all in the south for today we got a call from Lester Richards, a resident of Independence Village who told us that he along with other community members want cruise tourism in the area as soon as possible.
“Here in Independence we have the Big Creek Port. This Big Creek Port has a draft of 7 meters or 22 1/2 feet deck. Presently dredging is currently underway to dredge 11 meters which will bring you to 37 feet and also land is available to make any expansion for a tourist village for any cruise line. My concern is, why limit the south and not give us any cruise line? People are concerned what the cruise line will do to the south but it won’t make any bad; it will improve the life of a lot of people. So, we would like to see Norwegian or all the cruise ships that come to Belize make a stop at Big Creek Port because we have the capacity, we have tour guides here who are not doing anything, we have buses, we have hotels. If the tourist ship comes here we don’t want small ships, we want all these big ships that carry 2000.”
When what he’s asking for has been thoroughly analyzed even in the grounds of environmental risks, Richards says they are environmentally conscious.
“We deal with bananas and we use certain chemicals and we haven’t polluted anything and you don’t hear of anybody getting sick in the area. So, just to say it again, we are very concerned.”
“Is this your personal opinion or is this also the opinion of a group?”
“Yes, I spoke to a lot of villagers and the people are very anxious to see cruise tourism come to Independence. We have the Jaguar Reserve, we have the people of Maya Centre, we have the banana industry and I am sure tourists would like to see the banana industry. Our taxi operators will make money; our hair braiders will have something to do and this is my concern, we want cruise tourism. So, I am making a suggestion, the Big Creek Port is already established and they don’t have to use that caye. I am sure that if they make the proper negotiation they can use this facility and with this port they don’t have to dredge anything; this port you can just get off the ship and get on land, this is the best port in Belize, Big Creek Port.”
Richards says they are able to accommodate four ships at a time at the Big Creek Port and he urges that cruise tourism starts in the area so that residents in the area can have a better life.