We take this opportunity to officially inform the general public that the Placencia Tour Guide Cooperative supports cruise tourism in Southern Belize.
The formation of the Placencia Tour Guide Cooperative (PTGC) was actuated by the first cruise proposal that was to be developed at the point of Placencia Village. We realize we will not stop development in Belize, and we shouldn’t, however we acknowledge that we need to guide development and most of all, we need to organize ourselves as local native Placencians and Southern Belizeans, to benefit from these developments. Thus the formation of the PTGC.
The PTGC has gone thru the entire training process to become an official chartered Cooperative. We currently have a fully functioning Board of Directors - 7 people - and a present membership of 16 active members. The main function and roll of the cooperative is the allocation, organization and utilization of the resources and expertise of local tour guides and operators. We want to protect each other from being out competed by foreign entities. We want to increase the value and quality of the services we offer, and to properly market our tours and destination to the world as a unified destination and tour operating cooperative. This will put us in a position to be the go-to tour operating organization in Southern Belize, and will allow us better control over who operate in our area, thus allowing better protection of the PTGC membership, whom, on their own, would be easily outcompeted and disenfranchised.
The members of the PTGC are entrepreneurs and pioneers of the tourism industry. With most members having over 25 years of experience. We are stewards of the tourism industry and protectors of our natural resources in Southern Belize. From fly fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling tours, to jungle tours such as the Maya Ruin tours, the world famous Cockscomb Jaguar Reserve tour, the zip lining tour and everything in between; Southern Belize has something to offer to every niche market.
The consensus among local native Placencians is that of full support for the PTGC. Many have expressed sentiments such as - the PTGC is setting a precedent in unifying Placencia, especially small business owners, tour guides, tour operators and entrepreneurs - similar to what the Placencia Fisherman Cooperative accomplished over 50 years ago.
The first cruise tourism proposal presentation was made by Mr. John Tercek, VP, Commercial Development, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. dubbed the "Cruise Tender Arrival Pier and Formal Village". However, this concept was rejected, mainly due to the fact that people did not want a village within a village. People believed that it would keep locals out and would not benefit the community.
Everyone went back to the drawing board, and in 2013 we were notified of the Norwegian Cruise Line Harvest Caye Proposal. In summary, we believe that it is a good concept, due, but not limited, to these four (4) points:
1. It will eliminate the village within a village concept.
2. It will make an ideal geographical location to properly conduct water tours since the tour sites will be within a few minutes.
3. For land tours, it will by-pass Placencia Village and run through Independence Village, which is logistically the best method, for the fact remains that Placencia Village cannot physically support a fleet of buses running in and out of the village, and the 28 pedestrian ramps, will make it almost impossible to get off the Peninsula and operate inland tours within a reasonable time frame.
4. Generally, having the cruise ships station offshore on Harvest Caye is of significant benefit to the ability of the individual attractions in the South to be able to spread the visitors out in manageable amounts to many small communities, thereby spreading the economic benefit over a large area instead of trapping it in one place, such as it exists in Belize City.
To lend further merit on local support of the PTGC and cruise tourism, we would like to bring to your attention that a petition was circulated in regards to the formation of the PTGC and cruise tourism, with a total of 312 YES signatures from Placencia Village. This was subsequently ratified at a Placencia Village Council public meeting on October 23 of 2012 (Minuted).
We believe that cruise tourism in the south will benefit Placencians, and many of the southern communities. Too many of these communities have been neglected and abandoned when it comes to economic development. We foresee the potential of these communities flourishing from cruise tourism, and will be an impetus for us to invent new and innovative niche inland tours, such as the Scarlet Macaw tour in Red Bank Village, which has tremendous potential of becoming one of the biggest tourist attraction in Southern Belize.
This will also encourage many local communities to be proactive, and fashion themselves into attractions where they will attract only the tourists that want to be there, instead of having them dumped on their shores en-masse.
We implore the Government to kindly remember that the communities of the South, along with our current economy, are a part of the environment, and the native voices of the South want to be heard, acknowledged and be a major part of any decision made by Government. For far too long, a small faction of people, mainly expats and developers who wish to protect their own interests such as their condos and all-inclusive resorts, have carried more lobbying weight than the local native of Southern Belize. We are the majority and we want our voices heard.
We would like to point out that the Belize Tourist Board (BTB) was part of a study by the BREA research company study that analyzed the impact of the cruise industry in Belize for the 2011-2012 cruise season. The study found the following:
a. There were approximately 680,000 cruise visitors.
b. The cruise industry created 1800 jobs in Belize, with total wages in excess of US $18 million.
c. Total expenditures in Belize by Cruise Lines, passengers and crew totaled US$61M
The country cannot afford for the cruise industry growth, and the jobs it creates, to be limited.
Belize is anticipating more growth in passenger arrivals in 2014-2015 so the economic impact will be even greater, however with Belize City already at or over capacity, other sites must be developed to facilitate future growth.
We believe the native people of Placencia and the Southern communities are open, willing and ready to accept and manage cruise tourism. If the PTGC can work in harmony with the Norwegian Cruise Line Harvest Caye proposal, we will support the concept.
We acknowledge and agree that the fragility of our environment must be considered, but we realize also, that the people are also a part of the environment and the natives of Placencia have been the stewards and caretakers of this area. We have set up and effectively managed the sanctuary at Laughing Bird Caye, the Whale Shark experience, commercial fishing grounds, seaweed replenishment and now farming, protection of our lobster stock, conch stock, and even programs where corals are being replenished via transplanting.
After attending the public cruise consultation held in Independence Village on January 23rd, 2014, we would like to make it pellucidly clear that we expect our Government and developers to work in tandem to secure the protection of our environment, especially since we have observed significant flaws in the EIA that was presented.
In conclusion, the PTGC encourages the Southern communities of Belize and implore our Government; Ministers of Government and the Departments of Fisheries, the Environment and Lands Department, as well as the BTB; to seek a middle ground, and a solution that will allow the cruise lines to operate harmoniously within the environment and the communities of Southern Belize.