Belize Named One of Five Worst Ports of Call
Firebrand activist organization COLA has managed to find its way into many different causes which affect the quality of life of roots Belizeans all over the country. And they’re back in it again on behalf of tourism stakeholders. Belize has made it onto a list, and its not a good one. According to highly rated yahoo Travel, Belize is one of the five worst ports of call for cruise ship passengers in the Caribbean. Ouch. The article doesn’t exactly condemn Belize City, but it does state that there is little to do there, and it refers to the old capital as ‘dreary.’ It also specifically points to the fact that there is no cruise port and tourists have to be brought in by tender. That’s right up COLA’s alley, since along with FECTAB and tour operators, they have been agitating for the construction of a cruise port where ships could dock in Belize City. Today News Five spoke to COLA President Geovannie Brackett, and he told us that the article highlights what they’ve been saying all along.
Geovannie Brackett, President, COLA
“I completely disagree with the article in that it gives an unfair representation of what Belize has to offer as a tourism destination. The article does admit in some fairness that while there is not much to do in Belize City, there is a lot to do outside of Belize City. But what it emphasizes is that they can’t dock here. That was the big emphasis there. We at COLA have been advocating that we don’t care who builds the port, but Belize City does need a port. And that is not just because we are advocating for Stake Bank or anything, but the fact remains that the cruise lines are moving towards using the mega ships, the Oasis-class ships and the B.T.B. has confirmed this and if we don’t build a port, we will begin to lose calls. So what we are saying at COLA is that one, there needs to be a holistic approach to cruise tourism as it relates to Belize City. We know that municipal elections are coming up; whosoever is aspiring for mayoral candidate needs to come with a definitive and well-defined plan that works in collaboration with a tourism plan—with the B.T.B. and the stakeholders—for there to be more activities and attractions in Belize City. But not only that, I think this is the head-time that the government needs to engage in the conversation and break the impasse right now and push forward at fast speed the whole idea of getting a port for Belize City so that the ship can dock. The approach from the government right now I think is too lapsed. Cruise tourism is just as important as the sugar industry. And if you would look at it, what cruise tourism means to Belize City—the hair-braiders and all those taxi drivers that depend on tourists coming in—if you were to build a port that would multiply the numbers to come in and that will also bring more revenues into the city. And there needs to be that holistic approach and government needs to come push forward in getting a solution to this current impasse that we have and establish a port that the ships can dock for Belize City.”
B.T.B. Says Belize City Has Gotten Major Upgrade
You’ll note that Brackett disagrees with the article’s critical tone where Belize City is concerned. And there, indeed, he is joined by the B.T.B.’s Director of the Cruise and Regional Initiative Valdemar Andrade. Andrade reiterates that feedback has been consistently positive from those who go on tours and sample the product and country of Belize. And where Belize City is concerned, while it is a work in progress, there is no questioning the enhancements and improvements put in place by the B.T.B. and the Belize City Council, all to bolster the tourism product.
Via Phone: Valdemar Andrade, Director, Cruise and Regional Initiative, B.T.B.
“For Belize City now, for the last few years, the Ministry of Tourism and Belize Tourism Board have invested over, just close to six million dollars in the Fort George Tourism Zone area to upgrade the area. As you can see also, the City Council has put in millions of dollars in fixing the streets around the city to ensure that it has a lot better presentation and also facilitation for connectivity throughout the city. So basically we are working on those issues and we’ve also organized the tourism zone in a much better fashion where we now have a designated vendor’s area for all who sell Belizean craft behind the Mirab area. So we have some thirty vendors that work in that area to be able to sell their craft to the people who come off, our visitors from the cruise lines. And we have also organized how the tour operators and tour guides get people to go on tours and facilitate them to go on tours. We have also put in extra security; we have security throughout that zone and on tours to ensure that people have a safe and secure experience and also a good experience. And we also have tourism police who assist us in ensuring that people are safe. So we have to look at where we were three years ago as to where we are today. I think definitely that there…it all depends on the perspective that you take. I mean if you look at the reviews on a whole, there are always mixed reviews on what is there to do in the City. So from my perspective, as managing the Belize cruise ship destination, I would definitely challenge anybody that wrote that to come down and look at what there is to do. Look at the great culture, the great cuisine, the great foods that we have to offer in Belize and let’s put that whole issue to bed and definitely ensure that that becomes untrue.”
The other four destinations listed are the Bahamas, Jamaica, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.