The Placencia Chapter of the Belize Tourism Industry Association condemns in the strongest terms Government’s willingness to accept mass cruise tourism in southern Belize. We find it inexplicable that Cabinet could reject Norwegian Cruise Line’s proposal for a cruise port at Crawl Caye yet simultaneously encourage the company to find an alternate site, in this case Harvest Caye.
Although Harvest Caye does not lie within a marine protected area, the same negative environmental impacts resulting from excessive visitor pressure remain. Likewise, despite the Prime Minister’s statements that traffic at the Belize City cruise port would not be diminished, the inevitable result of a southern alternative would be the eventual migration of ships away from the old capital.
Most importantly, however, the development of a large cruise port in the south inexorably commits the area to an economic future based on mass cruise tourism. This type of mass tourism is 180 degrees opposite from the path of low impact overnight tourism that has brought the Placencia Peninsula so much success and promises to provide even greater opportunities in the future.
We take great issue with claims that any particular segment of our community supports the kind of mass cruise tourism being proposed by NCL, be they tour guides, hoteliers or the population as a whole. Whether you cite the Seatone Report, National Sustainable Tourism Master Plan, Peninsula 2020 survey or the advice of virtually every independent expert asked to study the issue, the consensus is absolutely clear that Peninsula residents have no desire to see the unique authenticity of our community be destroyed by the introduction of mass cruise tourism.
The fact is that the campaign to inflict mass cruise tourism on southern Belize does not have its origins in any part of the South; it is simply part of a long running effort by one government official and a small group of associates whose motives have nothing to do with developing our community and everything to do with enriching themselves.
We note with increasing disappointment the failure of the Ministry of Tourism to come forward with its position on this issue. Having spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars on independent studies and successfully convinced Cabinet to endorse a Sustainable Master Plan that clearly prohibits mass cruise tourism in the South, the Minister and CEO are suddenly missing in action. We can understand that ministers are busy and cannot read every lengthy document introduced for endorsement by cabinet, but surely the Minister of Tourism and the CEO have read their own policy…or have they? Mr. Heredia and Mrs. Panton, your silence is deafening.
The Placencia BTIA remains steadfastly opposed to the introduction of mass cruise tourism to southern Belize and will continue to be at the forefront of broad based opposition to what would amount to nothing less than a national disaster. Moreover, we urge Government to bring all segments of the tourism industry together to articulate a sensible policy toward cruise tourism and at the same time bring all elements of southern Belize together to develop policies and programs that will promote the economic, social and environmental well being of this richly endowed area of our country.
Signed unanimously by Board of Directors.