“NO” MEANS “NO”!
BTIA Toledo Chapter stands firmly against Norwegian Cruise Lines Proposal
BTIA Toledo rejected the introduction of large-scale cruise tourism in Southern Belize, along with many other organisations which voiced their opposition. We note and share others’ subsequent concerns regarding the head tax, and the lack of cultural sensitivity regarding NCL’s passenger entertainment on the island.
The little information that has been made public changes nothing: our position still stands. In our opinion, the hope of a few part-time employment opportunities does not begin to outweigh the risks from mass tourism to our environment, our communities and cultures, and to our overnight ecotourism industry.
Between 800 and 1200 jobs have been indicated, but not even minimum numbers of jobs have been included in the MOU – indeed, the only guarantee in the MOU is that no more than 25% of these unspecified jobs will go to foreigners. GOB has provided a list of meaningful jobs to NCL, but these have not been made public.
We call on GOB and NCL to provide firm details of the numbers and types of permanent direct positions, and their estimates and reasoning for numbers and types of indirect jobs.
GOB has said that the proposal will be subject to the necessary EIA but also intimated that only an amendment will be needed to an EIA conducted over 4 years ago. That EIA was for a 760 person hotel - as opposed to a c. 4000 passenger cruise ship - and is a vastly different proposition, with likely much higher impact on the local fishermen, as well as affecting manatee habitat and breeding grounds, amongst many other considerations.
We call on GOB to conduct a full EIA on this proposal, including public meetings in Stann Creek and Toledo Districts to allow people to seek answers to questions and to voice their opinion, as should be their democratic right.
NCL states that we should expect around 1000 passengers to take excursions, some 500 on marine tours and 500 on inland tours, but that these numbers will not exceed carrying capacities. Details of likely excursion destinations have not been made public (although we understand private meetings are being held with select parties), and no carrying capacities for potential sites have been set. It should be noted that none of the Toledo villages have waste management programmes, and the Institute of Archaeology’s standard practice is for visitors to take any garbage away with them.
We call on GOB and NCL to make public their tour excursion destinations under consideration - information without which it is impossible for the general public to make an educated decision as to the likely impact of cruise tourism on their community - and to fully consult with the public regarding carrying capacities.
The Belize Rural Development Project is conveniently timed for the NCL proposal. We note that it calls for improvements to infrastructure as well as the development of product certification standards. Craft vendors at the three Toledo sites covered by this Project currently operate informally, and free of charge.
We call on GOB to provide details of the infrastructure improvements planned for Lubaantun, Nim Li Punit and Blue Creek, including whether craft booths will be constructed, and the associated rental costs and eligibility requirements. We further request details of the proposed product certification standards, including any associated costs of certification, and the implications for craft vendors if they are unable to achieve certification.
Opponents of this proposal have been varyingly referred to by GOB officials and employees as ill-informed, irresponsible, and disrespectful. Lack of information and secret and select meetings, all serve to divide our communities and inhibit sustainable growth of the tourism industry.
We call on GOB to make public the full facts about this scheme – including the specific points made above - so that all Belizeans can draw their informed conclusions as to the benefits and disadvantages of this proposal, and whether one outweighs the other.
For more information please contact Dilma Cano, Tourism Information Officer, at the BTIA Toledo Chapter office in Punta Gorda Town, at 722-2531 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.