For weeks there have been reports among tourism stakeholders that a price increase at national parks and archeological sites would soon come on stream. A few days ago, the Director of the Institute of Archaeology, Jaime Awe, dispatched an email indicating that the fees at Actun Tunichil Muknal would have been raised to fifty dollars, Caracol to thirty dollars and eleven other sites including Xunantunich, Lamanai, Altun Ha and Cahal Pech would have been raised to twenty dollars. The proposed increase sounded alarm bells because it could discourage visitors to the sites. News Five spoke via phone today to Awe, who indicated why the increases are necessary but said that at the last minute, the increases have been put on hold indefinitely.
Via Phone: Jaime Awe, Director Institute of Archaeology
“For some years now the institute of Archeology and NICH had been planning to increase the entrance fees to the ecological parks. The reason for it was that, again, over the last seven years, we’ve invested easily more than thirteen million dollars in the parks. Many of these costs were as a result of improvements that stakeholders had asked for. For example, new parking space, new bathroom facilities, new access trails and we continue to invest monies. Over the last seven years we didn’t do any—in fat we have not increased entrance fees since 1980’s. so we decided it’s time for us to implement the increase. We were planning to do so for the coming tourist season. But some of the stakeholders called us and voiced a concern especially where the cruise industry is concerned. They need to pre-sell many of their packages in advance. So they were bothered that this increase might have seriously affect their revenues. As result, NICH decide we would hold back, defer the increase until further notice. So essentially that’s where we are.”
Whether or not changes would take place, entrance to the parks on Sundays and public holidays will continue to be free for Belizeans and permanent residents. Entrance for students also remains free at all times providing their schools request a waiver from the Institute of Archaeology prior to their visit. Awe also weighed in on the possibility that the Forest Department might be using a bidding process for future co-management of the country’s national parks. He said that the Archaeology Department, which co-manages parks with the Belize Audubon Society, will only be affected if BAS would lose its contract. Awe said that any new NGO would have to renegotiate a contract and terms of reference with the Archaeology Department.