But as the Belize Hotel
Association gets its residential
act together, they've still got an
old beef with cruise tourism,
particularly as two big deals are
in the works that would open
Belize to over a million cruise
visitors a year. As these of
one-day tourists hit the city streets and rural
destinations, the B.H.A. and many others, are
worried about the ability to handle all those people
and the possible degradation of Belize's tourism
product. According to Minister of Tourism, Mark
Espat, managing the two sectors will be
challenging, but it can be done.

Mark Espat, Minister of Tourism
"It is a challenge that has faced the Caribbean in
general.
Before in Belize, before 1998 when the cruise sector was

virtually nonexistent, it wasn't as much a challenge for
us
here. More recently it has been so, especially since
this year
we're expecting over half a million cruise visitors, as
opposed to two hundred overnight visitors. And next
year,
that figure should go up to over eight hundred thousand
in
2004 and a similar amount in 2005. The challenge is
really,
we believe, a question of management, a question of
trying
to direct the cruise passengers to those sites that are
most
convenient, such as Altun Ha, such as the Jaguar Paw
Caves,
the Caves Branch caves, Xunantunich, and developing more

exclusive, more exquisite destinations for the overnight

visitors who pay a premium and who want to feel as
though
they are getting something of greater value. It is
challenge
because the industry, especially the cruise industry is
growing very fast, and so I hope that we can step up and

meet those challenges."

According to Espat, out of the two hundred and
sixty million dollars in tourist receipts collected last

year, approximately sixty million came from
Belizean hotels.