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#506587 - 08/11/15 10:35 AM Carnival Cruise Line Shaking Cruise Ship Cage?
Marty Offline
What will be the future of the cruise industry in Belize City - which is the country's most bustling cruise tourism hub - and one that puts breads on thousands of tables. Mike Feinstein's Strake Bank Project can't get off the ground because the owners of the Fort Street Tourism Village, Royal Caribbean and Diamonds International say they'll sue government from here to "noh-moh, noh-moh."

So, the bottom line is that for the short term, the country will not be getting a cruise port where cruise ships can actually dock. But, there may be some urgency added to the situation because there are reports tonight that Belize may be danger of losing 2.5 million Belize dollars in tourism revenues, all because there is no cruise port for the mega cruise ships to properly dock in Belize.

The activist group, COLA fired off a press release today saying that they've learned that Carnival Cruise Line intends to cancel 14 visits to Belize for the coming "high season". They allege that Carnival's principals have reportedly told the BTB via email that they are, quote, "Unhappy and dissatisfied with their experience in Belize", end quote. COLA alleges that this email continues to say that the tendering process is unfavorable.

Well, no one ta the BTB is saying anything. We've sent questions asking for a confirmation or denial of this position from Carnival - and only the Director of Tourism responded to say she's out of the country.

Yesterday, when Prime Minister Dean Barrow returned to the country from an official business trip, we asked him about it:

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"I didn't have any conversation with Carnival during which Carnival has said that it requires the building of the port. I spoke to you all on the occasion of my having met with Carnival and told you that Carnival said that it would be nice if there were to be a port, but that for them that's not a be all or end all, that they intend to continue coming to Belize in any case. So if that has changed, I would first want to see the letter in which they indicate such a change before I would comment further."

COLA , quote, "…calls on the government to move forward with the approval for a port facility." End quote.

Channel 7


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#506620 - 08/12/15 10:25 AM Re: Carnival Cruise Line Shaking Cruise Ship Cage? [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

BTB Says COLA Crying Wolf Over Carnival Cruise Line Cancellations

Last night the headline on the news was that Carnival Cruise Line had canceled 14 cruise ship calls to Belize. A release from COLA said that the tourism industry was in jeopardy of losing $2.5 million dollars in revenue, all because Carnival was supposedly dissatisfied with the tendering process. Well, the Belize Tourism Board has responded saying that COLA misinterpreted the emails that they were trying to quote. This afternoon, BTB's Director of Destination Planning and Cruise hosted a press briefing in which he explained that indeed 14 calls have been cancelled, but not because Carnival is pushing for a proper cruise port to be built in Belize City. Here's how he explained it:

Valdemar Andrade - Director, Destination Planning and Cruise
"I just want to clarify some misinterpretations because yes, let me first say that Carnival did redeployed two ships which affected our call schedule by 14 calls for 2016. But this is a normal part of our scheduling process. Every year we have a process where they book calls, so they hold certain call positions to ensure that their ships can call on Belize. As you well aware we receive anywhere between 300-350 calls in Belize per annum and so people vie for those positions. We also have a 4 ship schedule policy, so we can only schedule 4 ships a day, so people try to hold their positions for those days especially in high season and so it's a management issue. So as cruise lines go cleaning up their call schedule, as they come to the end of the year then they want to secure and be sure of which days they have to call whichever destination. So as they cleaned that up they send us which ships they want to remove, which ships they are redeploying, which ships they are deploying to Belize, because they might be moving ships from other destinations to here. Which happens very often. In fact every year this happens. So our call schedule is never 100% complete at this point in time. Closer to December we will have a more definite schedule, but throughout the year there are changes depending on what is happening in either destinations or in the route or with whether there are many reasons why people would redeploy and move ships around."

Andrade also explained that the reason the re-routing of 2 ships causes 14 calls to be cancelled is because Carnival is one of the cruise companies which calls in Belize all year round, and those two ships would have visited Belize a total of 14 times this year. Annually, Belize gets between 300 and 350 calls. He also explained the parts of the email that COLA was trying to quote, and how they took it out of context:

Daniel Ortiz
"Specifically with the cruise tendering system. Are they dissatisfied with that system?"

Valdemar Andrade - Director, Destination Planning and Cruise
"As far as my conversation with Carnival specifically, they have never tied any issues of tendering to the cruise dissatisfaction or satisfaction. What they have commented is that they would like to get the tenders in closer or the shipping closer, so that the tender time is less. That's is as far as the conversations that we have had."

Daniel Ortiz
"Is that practical?"

Valdemar Andrade
"That is a discussion that we have to have with Port Authority to look at whether the bathymetry of the areas allows us to get the ship in any closer at all."

Daniel Ortiz
"So for those 14 calls that now there is that hole (for lack of a better word). How will the tourism industry fill those gaps that are now in the schedule?"

Valdemar Andrade
"Basically, you can't look at it as a gap, because we have been actively working. Deployment is an 18 month cycle or a two year cycle with some cruise lines and so we have been working two years before this to ensure that we have a certain deployment for 2016. So, for this year alone we are working specifically with 3 cruise lines to bring them on board. I have to say at least one of them has tripled their calls to Belize and so in the end what we look at is the net total. And it's not only calls, because now the ships are getting bigger and bigger. If you remove two ships and give me back a big ship or two big ships, then I net benefit is greater at the end of the day. So, from the desk that I sit, I don't see any issues with us filling the gap at this point in time and of course if there is any issue we would definitely signal it to the industry that there will be a significant drop in calls or packs, depending on what we feel would affect greater."

Daniel Ortiz
"So this assertion that is coming from COLA that we stand to lose 2.5 million dollars is inaccurate as well?"

Valdemar Andrade
"I would say it's inaccurate because I can't tell you whether we stand to lose until I have a final call schedule. I can't tell you that we stand to lose at any point in time, because it is a regular process and its not only Carnival. All the port agents send in their list and say well we want to change this or we want to remove this or we want to add this."

So, is there any truth to the suggestion that Carnival is, quote, "unhappy and dissatisfied with their experience in Belize"? Andrade conceded that as a fact, but he pointed out that all the cruise companies and their passengers have complained. The issue, according to the director, is that the cruise ship passengers get badgered as soon as they exit the gates of the Fort Street Tourism Village:

Valdemar Andrade - Director, Destination Planning and Cruise
"As a whole we have since the BTB has designated a desk for cruise, we have been in discussions with the cruise lines, all of them, Carnival included and we are fully aware that our guest experience.. We have two types of guest experience that we have for our destination; one, for everybody that goes on tour, they have an excellent time. Because they go to the Mayan temples, they go cave tubing and we normally get very good hits off those tours. For people who stays in Belize City proper, we have a complete opposite. The guest experience is a challenge for us. A major complain that we get is people being bombarded as they exit the Fort Street Tourism Village. They get attacked. Because everybody is looking in trying to make business, whether you are a tour operator, whether you are a hair braider, whether you are a vendor. At the end of the day you want to make some money off the guests that comes here. Remember each guest spend like $75 US dollars in Belize and so what we are doing is we are preparing our stakeholders to have a better approach, to have a better business space, but in an effort also to create a better experience for the guests. Remember, this is a partnership with us and the cruise lines. The cruise lines are not doing this is a demanding way or anything. They are basically saying to us, this is a partnership and can we work together. Remember they make revenues from a tour. They make revenues from a good experience and we also make business from a good experience as well. We create jobs, we create businesses out of that."

We'll have a little more from the Director of Cruise later on in the news, as he provides an update on the status of the Harvest Caye Cruise Port, being built by Norwegian Cruise Line.

Channel 7


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