BTIA Calls for Stronger Crime Measures

BELIZE CITY, Belize (May 19, 2006) - The Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) has responded to the recent surge of crimes against tourists by presenting government and non-government stakeholders with a strong set of proposals.

Referring to crime as a manmade disaster with consequences as serious as natural disasters such as hurricanes; the BTIA is calling for a focused and coordinated response to robbery and assault.

Immediate recommendations are that a Task Force be formed, and that communication and coordination between relevant agencies be enhanced.

"What we are recommending is simply a practical approach. There's no longer any doubt that measures already in place are not working," BTIA President Lucy Fleming said. She added that there is no underestimating the serious effect recent crimes in remote areas such as those near Caracol have had on the tourism industry.

"This is affecting every man, woman and child in Belize," she said, "And crime is obviously not something that is going away by itself. In fact, it is getting worse. We all need to work together to do something - and to do it very quickly."

Earlier, the BTIA recommended that tours to isolated areas in the Mountain Pine Ridge and Chiquibul Reserves be suspended.

The new BTIA proposals include insisting that BTL work towards ensuring communications capabilities nation-wide, and not just in the more profitable population centres.

"Government must insist that, as a virtual monopoly, BTL has clear responsibilities to the nation," the proposal states, and goes on to outline how better communications can be effectively be used in the war against crime.

The written proposal also points out the need for greater coordination between local police, the Tourism Police Unit, the BDF, tourism operators and possibly, the British Forces.

Ms Fleming added, "You can imagine how frustrating and gut wrenching this is for all of us involved in the tourism industry. We work hard to ensure that guests have a wonderful stay and return home with great memories and wonderful things to say."

"Being such a small country, Belize cannot afford these kinds of incidents, and we must do everything we can to stop them. That is why we are asking our own members, government agencies, national corporations, and neighboring countries to work together to ensure the safety of our visitors."

The proposal outlines the need for better cross-border cooperation by regional partners.

"By working more closely, regional authorities would share planning, intelligence and enforcement - all necessary elements in the fight against crime."

"It is not just a question of what is possible. It is more a matter of will" the report concludes.