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#470236 - 08/15/13 06:18 AM The Norwegian Cruise Deal Officially Outlined
Marty Offline

For months, there’s been buzz and blowback about the proposed cruise tourism project in southern Belize spearheaded by Norwegian Cruise Line. We’ve heard a diversity of viewpoints, but we haven’t heard from Norwegian, which, we gather, didn’t want to negotiate in public. But the negotiation is just about finished because two weeks ago on the 31st of July, both sides signed an eight page, 23 point memorandum of understanding.

The MOU was released to the media at a two and half hour press conference which finished about two hours ago. Due to time constraints, we can’t go into full details on that tonight, but we can provide the broad outline of the project.

Norwegian plans to invest $50 million USD Dolalrs in the Harvest Caye project, just south of Placencia which it expects to complete in 2015. They expect to create 1200 jobs during construction and once the project is underway. That outline was fleshed out by an all star cast of government leaders and Norwegian Executives at the event which was held on the sixth floor of the Matalon Building.

Minister Godwin Hulse, who heads the cabinet subcommittee on investment and who led the negotiations with Norwegian told the media Government is obliged to welcome investment…

Hon. Godwin Hulse - Minister of Labour
"Any investment that will create some jobs for our people - I think we need to get that in our minds. Those who are comfortable in their castles and in their little areas and have their jobs, need not to be mean because the man who doesn't have a job, is really looking for one and we are committed to helping him find one; that is the fundamental principle behind these kinds of investment. It is a very good thing because this project aims to bring more visitors to the south of our country. When people visit your country - one thing is for sure, they leave some money - you won't give them anything free. When they leave the money, hopefully, and the project is structured that the money is left in the hands of Belizeans. There is no way that we should have all these wonderful things in the south and the people in the south live in such abject poverty and I make absolutely no apology for trying to fix that."

Valdemar Andrade - Director, Cruise and Regional Initiatives
"We have to be conscious that this will impact 30 communities within these areas and about 60 different offerings that we're looking at and so we have to be absolutely clear that we cannot allow a small set of people to show and enjoy certain things because we at the Belize Tourism Board and the Ministry of Tourism have to ensure the benefit to the masses."

Hon. Godwin Hulse
"It is not that we are out, lying down and 'licky licky', etc. we are here to protect the interest of the Belizean people because that is why we were brought to government and that is what we are going to do and we are going to do so successfully."

Colin Murphy - VP, Destination & Strategic Development,NCL
"Probably the first thing I should do is to confirm that there has been absolutely no 'licky licky', I have no idea what that means but I'm pretty sure if I experienced it I would know about it."

So what will the project be like? Well, Hugh Darley is the Director. First off, Norwegian doesn’t intend to just build a port for cruise ships to dock at, they want to build a destination, where many of the visitors will choose to stay for the day to part-take in cultural entertainment and water recreation – while the rest go to the mainland for tours. Hugh Darley explained the destination they are envisioning.

Colin Murphy - VP, Destination & Strategic Development,NCL
"We want this project that we're working on to look Belizean. We don’t want it to look like a Mexican port or St. Thomas port, we want it to be unique - to have a sense of place."

Hugh Darley - Belize Project Director
"We develop destinations, we are story tellers so if anything we want to do is that when we go to a destination is that we tell a story. There's what we call a place there and there are a lot of places that you go that cruise tourism or cargo ports and when you get out - what do you see? You see warehouses and concrete. What you want to see it's there so we build a set of arrival, a set of place. It's just like writing a book - you have to have a place and time, the time and place we've picked is the heritage of Belize - starting with the Mayan, the Garifuna and the transfer of people from other parts of the Caribbean and Africa to the coast of Central America. Garifuna, why Garifuna - it's the only place in the world where we can tell that story and the effect is going to be real. We will not create a fantasy story, we will tell them the real story, the real people. We want to train and have the people tell their own story."

And while that is all fine and well, much of the opposition to the project is the effect it will have on overnight tourism – particularly the carefully cultivated overnight product on the Placencia Peninsula, which is just a few short miles from Harvest Caye. The Belize Tourism Industry Association has taken a hardline saying that the two are mutually exclusive, but today all at the head table were emphatic in saying that in fact they can complement each other:…

Hon. Godwin Hulse - Minister of Labour
"I have also heard emphatically that so called cruise and over night tourism cannot co-exist. I have no idea what that means, I have no idea what cruise and over night can't exist - I don't see any reason why foreigners coming into Belize to visit our beautiful country and leave money can't co-exist. What happened, will they hate one another? You came and I came and I shouldn't have come - I don't understand that at all."

Colin Murphy - VP, Destination & Strategic Development,NCL
"In 2012 you had 600 or a 1000 passengers coming to Belize and the majority of them left thinking that Belize City represented Belize. We think that by showing them how beautiful the south is and introducing them to that, it will drive more over night tourism and investment by these passengers - we've seen that and proven it all around the world."

Hugh Darley - Belize Project Director
"A million people come to Belize through Cruise Tourism and what do they see? There are a million eyes that have already picked Belize once - very easy for them to say 'you know what, very good experience, I'm coming back'."

Laura Esquivel-Frampton - Director of Tourism
"There is no study that has been produced, there is no evidence that has been produced that says that cruise tourism negatively impacts over night tourism. In fact, our numbers as we continue to have high growth in the cruise tourism industry right now coming into Belize City- we see our numbers for over night growing exponentially."

And while that is one controversy, another is that this project deviates from the National Sustainable Tourism Master Plan which says “the only acceptable form of cruise tourism for the southeast coast of Belize is pocket cruise tourism.” And this isn’t pocket cruising, this is mega cruise tourism with the third largest cruise company in the world, giving them their only strategic location in the Western Caribbean. So then how does that square with the tourism master plan? Hulse says, the master plan must serve the ends for which it was made:…

Hon. Godwin Hulse - Minister of Labour
"Plans and their plans and yes the Tourism Master Plan was endorsed, well thought out, well managed and well structured. But built in it for those who will read it carefully, as I did, is the concept of growing tourism. That concept is built in the master plan - not of shrinking tourism- the concept is to grow tourism. Therefore, there is nothing wrong and it behooves the Cabinet to decide, this is same mechanism - yes it varies from the strict letter of the master plan - but God forbid, the country and the Cabinet have not shackled by the writings in a document which purport and speak to the development of a time when it was produced."

Valdemar Andrade
"Cabinet has agreed to vary that policy because this project can fit the spirit of what the original intention of the Master plan is."

Will Harvest Caye Take Ships From Belize City?

EARLY ON, we had clips from today’s press conference announcing the signing of the MOU with Norwegian Cruise Line to build a port in Southern Belize. One sound-byte we missed is an important one: it discusses the impact the Docking facility in southern Belize will have on the Cruise attractions in Belize City.

Belize City has been the center for cruise tourism since its inception. IT may not be the best place in terms of visitor reviews, but it employs many, and, recently, a great deal of investment has been made to upgrade the environs surrounding the Fort Street Tourism village. So will Belize now be abandoned for this new facility in the south with a berthing dock? They say it won’t:

Colin Murphy - VP, Destination & Strategic Development,NCL
"With all companies concerned, this is a sgnificance increase in volumes to Belize which means when it results it's like 400% increase in tax revenue to the country. 400% increase in payment to PACT, to preserve and protect the environment - it diversifies the dependence on Belize City so it takes pressure off of Belize City while keeping all the operators in place. One of the concerns that was raised is if everyone from Belize City was going to go down south. One of our competitors have been cancelling cruises because Belize is full, full, full so there up to five ship a day so we don't think it's going to be any impact to the folks in Belize City at all."

Hon. Godwin Hulse - Minister of Labour
"Any scheduled visits in the North as existing - those shall not be diverted just as simple as that. So whatever was scheduled will be maintained and then you go to the south - we won't transfer them. So all this fear that everything was happening and in Belize City it will stop - that's not true."

Laura Esquivel -Frampton - Director of Tourism
"So what do we have to do now? Well we have to be prepared and we have about 24 months to get prepared for this project and that requires that we will have the suitable infrastructure in place - we will have our capacity limits in place and in fact we will be working with NICH to ensure that we have those capacity limits in place at least for the archaeological sites and with the other park managers for their sites."

As we noted earlier, Harvest Caye will only have a single berthing facility and Norwegian intends to use if 150 days of the year. On other days it will be open to other cruise lines. Tune in tomorrow, for the details of the MOU and the tough questions arising from it…..

Channel 7

Norwegian Cruise Lines says it bought 2 islands off Placencia for a new #Belize cruise port & will spend US$50 million developing it. NCL says once its new port at Harvest Caye is finished in 2015 it will quadruple the number of cruise passengers it brings to Belize. Oh boy!!!

--Lan Sluder

#470317 - 08/16/13 06:08 AM Re: The Norwegian Cruise Deal Officially Outlined [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

The Details Of the MOU

Last night, we gave you a snapshot of the plans for the Norwegian Cruise Destination at Harvest Caye in Southern Belize.

They're promising investment of 50 million US dollars in a destination that will be opened up in two years, and which will create directly and indirectly over a thousand jobs.

But it's not completely a done deal – right now its just a memorandum of understanding, which we'll look more closely at in tonight's story:

Jules Vasquez reporting
The eight page, 23 point Memorandum of Understanding, dated July 31st, 2013, is the product of long negotiation according to Minister Godwin Hulse:

Hon. Godwin Hulse - Chair, Cabinet Investment Committee
"There have been many presentations of MOU's and the final one that will be presented today will clear up a bit of confusion because there's been - I think it started with about draft 6, we're at draft 10 but they caught up on us on draft 6 and moved steadily through the various progressions."

The final signing was done on July 31st by trade minister Erwin Contreras who attended yesterday’s event, but as is his style, did not speak or take the head table. His CEO Mike Singh outlined one of the controversial points of the MOU – the head tax arrangement:

Mike Singh - CEO, Trade and Investment Promotion
"We've also allocated for a gradual increase in the head tax every five years which is the next slide. The head tax $7 per manifest per passenger will be paid to the Belize Tourism Board which $4.00 will be paid to the Port and the balance of $3.00 will be allocated to the government inclusive of all government fees. We are talking about within the 25 year life, the head tax will be increased 5 times - so we're looking at an additional $5.00 in head tax up to the point of the 25 year term. At which point we've calculated that NCL will be able to repair their investment which is an investment that the government has not had to do and at the end of that term we end up with a much larger head tax, which is appointed to government."

Jules Vasquez
"So who gets that increase because it doesn't say?"

Hon. Godwin Hulse
"It says we'll split it."

Jules Vasquez
"Okay so they get an increase as well."

Hon. Godwin Hulse
"But this time it will be split 50/50 - the increase."

Jules Vasquez
"But why shouldn't the increase accrue - they have enough to recover their investment, why shouldn't the increase accrue to the government and people of Belize?"

Hon. Godwin Hulse
"It has for the most part; we get an increase as well. If you're talking we are to get 100% then that was a decision of the Cabinet and after a lot of discussions - so that is where we go."

Hulse also answered why the MOU does not say which government agency gets what:

Hon. Godwin Hulse
"The government has decided that what obtains in the North will not obtain in the South - we're not going to follow the same formula at all. Government is saying that yes we will follow the split but how that is distributed will be determined by the Cabinet as appropriate and that has not yet been determined."

And while local authorities quibble over the minority portion of the head tax – the government has decided that what obtained in 2000 when Belize first signed a head tax agreement still obtains today:

Jules Vasquez
"Why are we maintaining the formula that we did in 2000 that the Said Musa sign with Mike Feinstein for a 4 - 3 or 60% breakdown - why have we maintained that?"

Hon. Godwin Hulse
"Well as we understood it because other lines are coming and this is what they're doing and we're looking at it in a country position, we weren't looking at it specifically at this because it's expanding cruise tourism across the country. The head tax - it is what comes to the country and what comes to the country is the visitors coming to spend his money. You don't want to create a situation where you shy away people especially when they see that chart of what obtains in the region because I know somebody said it was $3.00 - so you want to be careful."

And while that surely won’t silence critics, CEO Singh made it clear that he has been careful:

Jules Vasquez
"Do you or any related companies have any interest in any real estate ventures or civil works, if even a dredge perhaps that may be associated in this?"

Mike Singh
"I am an employee of the Government of Belize, my job is to work and seek investment opportunities which I think I do a fairly good job of doing. In this case, Mr. Murphy brought us an investment opportunity, I will state it categorically for the record - I absolutely no personal interest in this business - none."

Jules Vasquez
"No family or related company interest?"

Mike Singh
"I don't keep track of everything my family does but as far as I know - no."

And speaking of dredging, Norwegian says it plans to raise the island:

Hugh Darley - Belize Project Manager - NCL
"One of the things that we're going to do now with our dredge programme is we're going to refill the island and we're going to bring it up about 6 foot - so it's going to be 4 feet higher than its original state so that we can get a little bit more of the floor plane and have a substantial island - it won't have as much wetlands as it had before. We'll come back and help on how to replenish those existing beaches that have been on the island before. Why will people come here? Because it will give an environmental story, if we change that or I try to build a South Beach, or I try to build Cozumel - we wouldn't be telling that story. So it's natural for us to follow the history and the story that we want to tell - one of the stories that we want to tell is that of the Garifuna and the fact that there's a unique story to tell about this part of the world and it's not being told somewhere else. So the style, the language, the culture, the history, the connection to the Mayan history and pre history of Central America."

And that environmental story will be told, mostly with an old EIA for a resort development on the same island:

Hugh Darley
"The island only currently has a permit for development; it was a development for a resort destination. We'll show you that 20% of that approved destination impacts - so we're producing a light footprint, economically sensible and environmentally sensitive footprint."

Jules Vasquez
"We're dealing with two different creatures completely - one is an EIA for a hotel which has no birthing facility and the second is a birthing facility so how do we cross one into the other and why do we do that? Or is it just for the expediency of the investor?"

Mike Singh
"Expediency is a consideration, I will admit to that, there has been substantial studies done on this island and I think it is available online that covers probably 60% or 70% that same issues that NCL will have to do. The rest of the issues that they will have to put under which is actually reducing the amount of construction going under will be in respect in the change in use. The undertakings of this MOU are subject to a positive outcome of the application for the amendment of the current approved environmental assessment for Harvest Caye."

And that’s why the MOU is non binding, but with more than a hint of a threat the Norwegian Execs made it clear that the world is watching:

Colin Murphy - VP, Destination And Strategic Development For Norwegian Cruise Line.
"I think in principle it's not legally binding, we think it's a strong demonstration of Government's intent and we think it will be fairly unprecedented to deviate significantly from that. We think it's important that the terms of the MOU are clear and I must say that I know that there are international investment community that are watching very closely to what happens in Belize. They're trying to understand if Belize is a place that is really open to do business so we are taking the government and their word and with the MOU I think it's a great basis to move forward and again people will be watching us to see how it progresses."

Hon. Godwin Hulse
"All the various covenants in this agreement are covered by one law and whatever else is required will be taken to the National Assembly so that is the reason for the fundamental clause. But this is about two parties working together in good faith and the government says we welcome the investment if ABC&D happens and then they come in to do ABC&D - that is basically it."

Tomorrow, we'll look at how the Port Developers say they hope to create jobs, when and how many.

Channel 7

#470320 - 08/16/13 06:30 AM Re: The Norwegian Cruise Deal Officially Outlined [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

The Norwegian men explain why the Harvest Caye Port is needed

The ink on the Memorandum of Understanding between Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and the Government of Belize has been dry from July thirty first. Minister Godwin Hulse said that it was not a secret and the government welcomed the fifty million US dollar project. Jobs that go to the poor people of the south was the main thrust of the almost three hour press conference. Although there would be thousands of tourists aboard NCL’s ships, the MOU states that at least twenty-five percent of its passengers would attend tours. The National Sustainable Tourism Master Plan says quote “the only acceptable form of cruise tourism for the southeast coast of Belize is pocket cruise tourism.” unquote. But the MOU explained that site capacities would not be exceeded. The twelve hundred jobs on Harvest Caye may include a twenty-five percent foreign workforce, but those workers would be phased out over a five year period. The NCL representatives and Minister Godwin Hulse defended the merits of the development and explained how the Harvest Caye Port will be utilized.

Hugh Darley, Belize Project Director, NCL

Hugh Darley

“The destination we’re developing on Harvest allows us to create a base camp that allows most of the guests to get off the ship. If a ship for example has about four thousand guests, about thirty-five percent of those guests are going to buy a tour. Since we are already in a marine environment, about half of those, fifteen hundred or so, are going to take a marine tour from the island; which means that they get on a glass bottom. About a half of those will then go to land site. So we have reduced the number of a hundred percent of travelers coming off of a vessel like they do in Belize City having to come first by a vessel and then go out on tours. So you will have anywhere between a low of a hundred and fifty to a high of maybe five hundred people a day that will really take those vessels into a mainland base camp and then take those other tours. The thing that is unique about this is the spin though based on the way we set up the island, there are all Belizean businesses. So unlike an all inclusive resort or a private island, it is not run and operated by the line but it is actually run and operated by a community of businesses.”

Godwin Hulse

Godwin Hulse, Chairman, Cabinet Subcommittee

“What comes to the country is the visitor coming to spend his money. You don’t want to create a situation where you shy away people when you see that chart of what obtains in the region. Cozumel for example somebody says is three dollars. You got to be careful. You get the tourist here, he pays the dollars whether he gets off the ship or not—he pays it for docking there. Whether he comes off the ship or not, you get that.”

Colin Murphy, VP, Destination & Strategic Development, NCL

Colin Murphy

“It’s a significant increase in volumes to Belize which means what it results in is something like a four hundred percent increase in head tax revenue to the country. four hundred percent increase in payments to PACT to preserve and protect the environment, it diversifies dependence on Belize City. So it takes pressure off of Belize City while keeping everyone and all the operators in place. I know one of the concerns that were raised was that everyone would go from Belize City down south. I think one of our competitors have been canceling cruises because Belize City is full. In some ports the cruise spends more than the passengers; so increased passengers and cruise spend. Admission fees at some of the archeological sites which are generating almost no revenue at the moment. We are giving them opportunity to create revenues through entrance fees so they can reinvest. Increased volume for tour operators; local procurement of goods and services as much as we possibly can; opportunity for local vendors to operate concessions. And as Hugh mentioned, the improved cruise passengers experience drives land base tourism and repeat visitors. We’ve seen this again and again and again all around the world. In 2012, you had six thousand or so passengers coming to Belize and majority of them left thinking Belize City represented Belize. We think that by showing them how beautiful the south is and introducing them to that; that it is going to drive more overnight tourism and investment by these passengers and we have seen that improvement all around the world. Eighty percent of cruises use cruising as a way to sample destinations. The cruise industry, we talk about fam trips. Have you heard of fam trips? Familiarizations trips they are called where a country or a hotel or a cruise line will take a bunch of people and take them to the country or take them to the hotel or take them on the trip to see how great it is and usually these are travel agents for example and they go back and having seen how wonderful it is, they can sell it. cruise tourism is like a big familiarization trip.”

B.T.I.A. Placencia Chairman maintains NCL is a bad deal for Belize

You’ve heard about the minimum of twenty-five percent of the passengers guaranteed to go on tours….that numerical amount continued to resound in the MOU as the government agreed to a twenty-five year concession as the only Cruise Port in Southern Belize, specifically Stann Creek and Toledo. No calls scheduled for the Fort Street Tourism Village in Belize City, would be diverted. The Belize Tourism Industry Association believes the deal is still a sour one because of the division of the head tax. NCL will pay the B.T.B. a head tax of seven U.S. dollars; however, the lion’s share, four U.S. dollars, will be returned to NCL. Placencia B.T.I.A. Chairman, Stewart Krohn, had made his objections quite loudly when the draft MOU was available. Now that the actual details are available, Krohn still lashed out at the signatories on the document.

Stewart Krohn, Placencia, B.T.I.A. Chairman

Stewart Krohn

“Why would they give any money back to NCL? If you look over the twenty-five year of the agreement and you say that the amount of passengers that are going to come and pay the head tax each year, it comes to something between five hundred thousand to a million passengers a year. At four dollars a head give back to NCL, it means that they will recover over the life of the agreement between fifty and one hundred million U.S. dollars. Now, they are only paying fifty million for the port, so they are getting back more than they actually pay for the port. It is unheard of. I don’t understand why they would do this. It has never been done to any other investor and certainly not to any hotel. I think the best they can say is that other countries in the Caribbean do it. But I’ve been all over the Caribbean, every country in the Caribbean Jose; even people who have not been to every country in the Caribbean know that no country offers what Belize has to offer to a cruise line.”

Jose Sanchez

“The MOU is not legally binding. So does that mean then that it can be changed assuming that the government would see it fit?”

Stewart Krohn

“Jose let me be honest with you, they can change the MOU all they want, but it is not about the MOU; it is about the concept of mass cruise tourism for the south. It is just a bad deal period. They can fiddle a little bit with the MOU, but it really doesn’t make much difference. It’s the whole idea; that they are taking the tourism industry, which is the engine that drives the economic trade, and turning its direction one hundred and eighty degrees from how it has been successfully operating. Why? I cannot understand why they would do that. There is no money in it for anybody.”

Jose Sanchez

“They say that they are bringing a thousand jobs for a third of the year and they have eight hundred more jobs on ships open to Belizeans. These are the highlights.”

Stewart Krohn

“I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I heard that crap about oh we are going to hire Belizeans on the cruise ships; that’s pretty pathetic. They could always had hired Belizeans on the cruise ships. If Belizeans wanted to work on cruise ships they are always free to work on cruise ships. So I guess all the people out there that want jobs, I would say go see Mister Murphy, go see Minister Godwin, go see Mister Heredia, go see Mister Contreras and get your names in there and get one of those fabulous jobs on a cruise ship. This gets to the very core of who we are and how we deal with our affairs visa vie the rest of the world. It is Jose, I hate to keep bringing back this analogy; it is a crack head deal. There is nothing in it for Placencia; there is nothing in it for the south; nothing in it for the whole country. I have to explode this myth that has been created particularly by Minister Hulse and he used a very strong word in his press conference. He talked about he poor, destitute people of the south; destitute and all he cares about—and Mike Singh makes the same argument—that they care so much for these poor, destitute people of the south. Well I have a question; if they are so concerned about the condition of all these destitute people in the south—they’ve been in office for what is it, five and a half years now. Why did they suddenly become so concerned with all these destitute people in the south? They certainly weren’t interested in them in the first four years of the term because the U.D.P. government lost every seat in the south.”

Seventeen cents from the head tax will be deposited in the Tourism Development Fund. The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry is in consultations to formulate a position on the NCL development. 

Channel 5

#470323 - 08/16/13 06:45 AM Re: The Norwegian Cruise Deal Officially Outlined [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Southern Cruise Port Will Not Take Away From Belize City Port, Says Tourism Authorities

The Memorandum of Understanding for the Harvest Caye Project in southern Belize has been signed, as we reported on Wednesday, and its Master plan underwent a few changes along the way.  But Leader of Government Business, Senator Hulse assured  that Norwegian Cruise Line will be required to meet a list of prerequisites and that the Belize City port will not be affected by the expansion of cruise tourism now in southern Belize.

Senator Godwin Hulse, Leader of Government Business

“Any scheduled visits in the north at the existing thing, those shall not be diverted; so, whatever is scheduled there, we will maintain and then you go to the south; we will not transfer them; so, all this fear that was happening in Belize City will stop – that’s not true.  This supports the national tourism master plan in reaching its objectives of 1.5 million cruise passengers by 2030 and communities and businesses to benefit and be impacted.  So, the technical team worked around that; the Cabinet was satisfied, it’s socially acceptable; of course, you can’t please everybody, so am not here to say that everybody is going to say hoorah but there are a lot of people who will.  Economically acceptable, the analysis showed that it would bring revenue to government and foreign exchange and economic benefits to Belize.  Legally doable? Absolutely; the concession does not infringe on – concessions in Belize city they company will abide by all necessary environmental compliance rules the company will abide by the labor laws of Belize the company will abide under respective license granted by the port of authority company will apply for incentive under the physical incentive act the company will abide by all necessary statutory boarding — immigration and  vessel requirements as stipulated by the port authority company will be license under the hotel and tourist accommodating act and the company will undergo US dollar exchange under the exchange control act so it’s legal do-able no secrets here nothing to hide.”

Director of the Belize Tourism Board, Laura Esquivel Frampton, says that a number of communities in the south will have new opportunities and outlined how the project will evolve.

Laura Esquivel Frampton, Director, BTB

“There are  the Mayan villages in the area; Placencia can benefit, Independence, Seine Beight, San Juan, Red Bank, Georgetown, Maya Mopan, San Roman, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Maya Center, Silk Grass, Sittee River, Dangriga, Bella Vista , Trio, Bladen, Medina Bank, Monkey River, Punta Negra, Golden Stream, Indian Creek and Big Falls and we talked on this with some authority; our team has actually been out  and we actually went in a car and tracked and saw how long it takes to get to these locations to make sure it’ll be in line with a 6-8 hour visit here in port and all of these are distinct possibilities; so, what we’re saying is we’re bringing economic opportunities to all of these villages .”

Frampton also argues against the belief that cruise tourism affects overnight tourism.

Laura Esquivel Frampton, Director, BTB

”There’s no study that has been produced; there is no evidence that has been produced that says that cruise tourism negatively impacts overnight tourism.  In fact, our numbers, as we continue to have high growth in the cruise tourism industry right now coming in Belize City, we see our numbers for overnight growing exponentially.  Last year alone, the number was up 10% over the previous years in overnight and this year we’re already at 9% over last year’s numbers and the numbers just keep growing.  So, there’s no correlation between growth increased tourism and lack thereof in overnight.  We will put monitoring measures in place; we will establish current capacities and we will have management strategies in place.”

Norwegian Cruise Line has purchased roughly 75 acres in southern Belize for the project, which it describes as an eco-friendly cruise destination.  Harvest Caye comprises two adjoining islands in Stann Creek and Toledo.


#470395 - 08/17/13 06:07 AM Re: The Norwegian Cruise Deal Officially Outlined [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

NCL's Floating Pier Concept At Harvest Caye

For the past two nights we've been telling you all about the proposed cruise terminal that Norwegian Cruise Lines has planned for the south of Belize at Harvest Caye. It's a lot of minutes of coverage, but, to be fair, the details of the project have been shared publicly in unprecedented fashion. With past cruise terminals, or proposed terminals, we've never gotten a public ventilation of the Memorandum of Understanding.

Tonight, we'll look at the concept of a floating pier, which would become Belize's first berthing facility, plus the issue of jobs - how many and when. Here's our final look at Wednesday’s press conference:

Daniel Ortiz reporting
The single pier will be designed, they say for minimal environmental impact, supported by 25 piles

Hugh Darley - Bze Project Manager - NCL
"We've got a floating pier system - why floating? Because that is a smaller impact, small foot print - we saw a lot of this in Alaska. When you talk about sensitive waters and where you are, the less concrete, the less structure and the less construction that it takes - floating piers allow us to build it on land and be floated out and put in place; it has minimal amount piles.

The jobs will be created during the building and the project phase:

Colin Murphy - VP, Destination And Strategic Development For Norwegian Cruise Line.
"We're going to be hiring a lot of people, you see in the MOU it talks about up to 25% foreign employment - we would be foolish if we had that much foreign employees because if you forget expats and play on an expat contract then makes no sense economically so it's in our own best interest to make sure we hire as many Belizeans as we possibly can, and we will."

Hon. Godwin Hulse - Chair, Cabinet Investment Committee
"There's going to be projected employment of about 1200 people - the unemployment rate in the Stann Creek district we understand is about 15.3% and in Toledo it's about 13.9% with a country average of about 14.4% - we're going to be knocked up by the opposition for that, but that's no secret, by the time for the next general election we will have it down to 7%."

Colin Murphy
"There will be up to 1000 jobs direct and indirect jobs related to this project."

And in the interim, Norwegian will be recruiting in Belize

Colin Murphy
"So what we're going to be doing is implementing a recruitment program in Belize and focus on the South to commence later this year. We could hire thousands and thousands of new crew, remember we said about all the new ships that we're building. So we can find maybe 8000 new crew members over the next few years, now they're not going to all come from Belize. But we think we can create some great jobs for people and great opportunities for people."

But will they be taking jobs from Belize City?:

Hon. Godwin Hulse
"Any scheduled visits in the North that already exists - those shall not be diverted, simple as that. Whatever was scheduled there will be maintained and then you go to the south - you won't transfer them, so all this fear that everything that was happening in Belize will stop, that is not true."

Colin Murphy
"We couldn't accommodate them so for us it's one ship a day and we think it's only going to be used probably 150 days a year."

And most of those visitors who land in the south are expected to stay on the island:

Mike Singh - CEO, Ministry of Trade
"The idea is to ensure that there is an optimum number of passengers to leave the ship to go on shore but that there's also not too many to exceed what the carrying capacity can handle."

Jules Vasquez
"What is the purpose of having a new destination if we will just have to tender them all over again?"

Hugh Darley
"The destination we're developing at Harvest allows us to create a base camp that allows most of the guests to get off the ship. If the ship has about 4000 guest, about 35% are going to buy a tour, since we're already in a Marine environment, about half of those (1500 or so) are going to take a marine tour from the island which means they get on a glass bottom boat, a day daily - whatever that vessel may be. About a half of those are going to a landside so we have reduced of 100% of the travelers coming off of a vessel like they do in Belize City - having to come first by a vessel then go out on the tours. So you have a low of 150 to a high of 500 people a day that would actually take those vessels into the main base camp and take those other tours."

BTIA Placencia: Speak Up On NCL Project

And so while the idea there is not to inundate the south - it kind of also is. And that's because while Norwegian is developing a destination on Harvest caye where they hope their visitors will stay and spend all their money, their also zoning in on as many as 60 villages in the south that hardly get any tourism.

But Placencia Chapter President Stewart Krohn says you can’t have it both ways. Here's more form our conversaiton with him yesterday:..

Stewart Krohn - President, Placencia BTIA
"I am just speaking on behalf of the Placencia BTIA chapter, the national BTIA has a board - that board has to consider things, please make it clear I'm speaking from one little small organization. But don't make the mistake of thinking that it's just the BTIA that is against this thing, if you look at the Belize Hotel Association, Placencia Tour Guide Association, Toledo Branch of BTIA, Southern Environmental Association - and there are more environmental groups that have not put things to paper. So this is not just some BTIA thing, it's not just a Placencia thing, it's not just a Southern thing - this is a National thing. I realize for someone to go and stand up and fight the government, it is not easy - I have to say, I cannot blame anyone, no matter how against this thing they might be - I can't blame you if you don't come out and make a big fuss on the TV like I am. But there are other ways that you can support what we're doing - speak to your area rep and say that 'this thing can't work, this thing doesn't make sense' - listen to the arguments. No one has to stand up and wave your flag and make yourself an enemy because we know that people have to live, people want scholarships for their children, people want land and everything from government because they play such a large role in our lives."

Krohn says he will urge the BTIA to keep up the pressure on Norwegian because the MOU is non binding.

Channel 7

#470612 - 08/20/13 06:04 AM Re: The Norwegian Cruise Deal Officially Outlined [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Norwegian Exec Censured By National Garifuna Council

They say that loose lips sink ships – well, for the sake of Norwegian Cruise Line, that had better not be true! That’s after Project Designer for NCL’s Harvest Caye Project Hugh Darley made what turns out to be an offensive comment about the sacred Garifuna Dugu Ceremony. Darley was trying to speak affectionately of the Garifuna Culture – but made a huge gaffe when he started talking about the Dugu, which is a closed ritual used to call up the ancestors. But, it seems Darley was told it was some kind of cool dance. Here’s what he said:…

Hugh Darley
"Garifuna - why Garifuna? It's the only place in the world that we could tell that story and it would be real. We would not create a fantasy, we're telling the real story from the real people. We want to train and have people tell their own stories. In the afternoon there will be a big drum circle on the beach and at 3 o'clock we're going to tell the guests 'guess what - we're going to do a big drum circles out on the beach doing a dance called [dugu].' Why? Because nobody ever gets the chance to see that."

A statement issued this evening says that quote,

“The National Garifuna Council condemns the announcement by Norwegian Cruise Line and their agents to highlight the Garifuna culture, particularly our sacred ceremony, the Dügü, as an attraction for tourists without as much as the courtesy of consulting with the leadership of our community,” end quote.

It adds quote,

“The Dügü is a sacred ceremony and is not performed as entertainment for any audience. We find the announcement insulting and, while it may be well intentioned, indicative of arrogance and ignorance on the part of those concerned.”

This issue will be discussed at a scheduled meeting of the National Executive of the NGC this weekend.

Channel 7

#470619 - 08/20/13 06:32 AM Re: The Norwegian Cruise Deal Officially Outlined [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
Why the head tax is split $4-$3

This week, the Government of Belize explained why it would return $4.00 out of the $7.00 in head tax, to be collected from the Harvest Caye project, back to Norwegian Cruise Lines.

CEO in the Ministry of Trade, Investor Promotion, Private Sector Development and Consumer Protection, Hon. Michael Singh, explained Wednesday at a press conference in Belize City that the $4-$3 split is to give NCL a chance to recover its investment over the 25-year exclusive concession.

Singh explained that in a number of countries where the head tax is higher, the governments of those countries invested the capital for the construction of the port; however, in Belize, NCL has agreed to invest no less than US$50 million on the project.

Singh explained that some countries have a head tax as high as $60, while others have none at all, and went on to say that those numbers are the extremes with the average being around $8.20.

The Memorandum of Understanding between GOB and NCL allows for an increase of not more than $1 in the head tax every five years.

Minister of Labour, Local Government, Rural Development and National Emergency Management, Hon. Godwin Hulse, confirmed that NCL and GOB would split any marginal increase to the head tax 50/50.

Hulse also said that GOB is still undecided on how the $3 will be distributed, as it intends to use a different remuneration method for the south than it uses for the head tax collected in northern Belize.

Hulse, along with the Belize Tourism Board, has stated that the MOU is not legally binding, but is a show of good faith between GOB and NCL of their commitment to the project.

Hulse also explained that the MOU in its current form is the sixth draft and, while no major changes are expected, the agreement will be further negotiated.

Notable is the fact that the $4-$3 split has survived previous drafts of the MOU, and with the signing on July 31, it appears to be a permanent fixture in the agreement.

The split has caused several stakeholders to speak out against the arrangement, including the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA), which equated GOB with a “crack head looking for a hit” after analyzing one of the previous drafts of the MOU.

The Reporter

#470660 - 08/21/13 05:23 AM Re: The Norwegian Cruise Deal Officially Outlined [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Dear Friends,

When I first saw the headline “Dugu dancing on Harvest Caye,” I was shocked, angry and confused. What came to my mind immediately was which Garifuna family is going all the way to Harvest Caye to do their Dugu ceremony? Or, there will be several Dugu ceremonies to be held at Harvest Caye as of now?

For those who do not know anything about the Garifuna culture, Dugu is the religion of the Garifuna people and it is not something to play around with or joke about. Many Christians in the past and present, including some Garifuna people, are against the practice. However, a majority of these people know very little about this religion, made no attempt to learn about it and just want to condemn it.

This religion has played and continues to play a vital and integral role in the preservation of the Garifuna culture. It is so unfortunate that some individuals continue to display their ignorance to one of the essences of the Garifuna culture.

I learnt in Anthropology that every ethnic group has their own values and beliefs and it is not our business to say what is right and wrong for them to practice based on our own ethnic values and beliefs. I have had my own personal experiences with Dugu and I am proud to be a Garifuna. For those who are Garifuna and have not had their experience, your day will come soon.

Your Friend,
Wellington C. Ramos

#471546 - 09/01/13 06:15 AM Re: The Norwegian Cruise Deal Officially Outlined [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

“Norwegian” Exposes its Racist Policies and Cultural Insensitivity – Impelled by Greed and Profits, it wants to make Belizeans a part of its Disney circus

By Norris Hall

IN a “facey” and barefaced display of arrogance, greed and cultural insensitivity, the Project Director for Norwegian Cruise Line’s controversial proposal to build a massive cruise ship port in an eco-sensitive area of southern Belize, a gringo, placed on display at a recent press conference, his company’s agenda to exploit the resources of Belize and its people, to the hilt.

He posed as if he was the return of Christopher Columbus, along with his entourage carrying a glittering golden cross as a magic wand to take our land or as a slave master witnessing the arrival of his Negroes being unloaded from the slave ship Amistad.

Boasting its justification for what NCL sees in Belize as an attractive destination, he spoke of the people of Belize as though they were a primitive ethnic curiosity which his company plans to include in a Disneyland-like display that will be a corollary to Tarzan and Jane-type movies. It would be interesting to know about what he really thinks of us as a people and of our struggles out of the British colonial experience and the indignities we suffered under the British Crown.

Like, and no doubt with the endorsement of Papa Barrow’s government, he is going along with their subtle introduction of neo-colonialism.

“The place in time”, he said, “is the heritage of Belize with the Mayan through the Garifuna and the TRANSFER of people from other parts of the Caribbean and Africa to the coast of Central America.”

He added that it is the only place in the world we can tell the story effectively and be real. Yet, while he wants to tell a “real story about a real people” he also wants to “train and have people tell their story”.

It gets worse: “We are going to tell the guests what we are going to do is the dance called ‘the Dugu’”.

Adding to this offence assault on our cultures were the fact that two Government Ministers – the government’s point-man in steering the NCL investment, the Minister of Labour and Immigration, Godwin Hulse; the Minister of Tourism and Culture Manuel Herredia; as well as the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Trade and Investment, the infamous Mike Singh who has denied any personal interest in the project although the contrary is known to be true.


They all lapped-up this presentation. It was, truth be told, offensive to watch and listen while three official blind mice took on the persona of Mickey. It is difficult under such circumstance to refrain from using expletives.

It was right and proper for the leaders of both the Maya and Garifuna people to have issued scathing statements against this type of cultural exploitation that obviously has the endorsement of the Barrow administration which has imbedded in its DNA a pro-British, “royal creole” attitude and aloofness that are indicative of the Prime Minister.

The National Garifuna Council slammed NCL and its Project Director who is obviously not sensitive to the cultures of black people other than what he may have lived, or is living, in the southern United States of America or in his own business culture of exploitation and greed.

In a press release the Garifuna Council said that it objected to NCL’s proposed exploitation of the Garifuna culture. The release condemned the use of the “Dugu”, as an attraction for tourists. It adds: “The Dugu is a sacred ceremony and is not performed as entertainment for any audience. We find the announcement insulting……and indicative of arrogance and ignorance on the part of those concerned.”

The Maya Leaders have expressed their concerns over NCL’s unbridled plans to exploit their culture and at their expense and with a pittance in return. One Maya leader commented: “We want to preserve the cultures of both the Maya and Garifuna people. We will not be exploited. Our land is a part of our culture and the government has disrespected the Court’s ruling to our rights to communal land.”

Indigenous peoples are more and more standing up against exploitation. Last year indigenous people from all over the World met in Norway at a United Nations Conference. At the end of that conference, a declaration was issued calling for an end to discrimination and exploitation of indigenous peoples.


A recent article in a Journal of International Law addresses government corruption and exploitation of indigenous peoples. The Government of Belize is guilty of discrimination against Belize’s indigenous peoples – the Maya and the Garifuna – as defined by the United Nations.

The approach by NCL in Belize that is being encouraged by a government that should be protecting its people is a crude modern-day invasion and exploitation of these people and their rights. This type of approach would not be tolerated anywhere else in the world and especially not now seven centuries after Columbus or after the last century of de-colonization.

Those concerned, from all appearances, must include the National Institute of Culture and History. They advise the Minister of Tourism and Culture. There has not been a peep from them on the disrespectful performance of this NCL spokesman.

The Belize Times

#471585 - 09/01/13 07:32 PM Re: The Norwegian Cruise Deal Officially Outlined [Re: Marty]
ACBum Offline
Why would we as a beautiful country want to start off doing something crooked. They want to come here let them play by our rules. Believe me they are doing us no great favor. If it is a $7us tax than it should remain a $7us tax. Oh so they can call it a tax and then get the money back ... and our Govt. agrees with this? Why don't they call it a $3us tax and find some other way to steal from their customers? Why does Belize need to participate. Sad that we have such a small population and still can not be represented in a dignified manner by our elected officials. Go visit "Harvest Caye" and see how many business are truly owned by Natives. Watch the tourism industry explode and see how many are deriving the wealth that are from Belize. I am all for growth but depending on someone outside of the country to plan it for us is foolish.

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