NCL mega tourism project goes against sustainable tourism policy
As we said, the Placencia Peninsula was the biggest winner at Saturday night’s tourism award. It was a major win for the industry in the south which has remained environmentally conscious over the years, retaining its natural beauty and cultural uniqueness. But, all that can change overnight since Norwegian Cruise Lines is proposing a mega tourism project for southern Belize, specifically on Crawl Caye. High level meetings are being held between the company and the government and a committee headed by Minister Godwin Hulse has been named. A Memorandum of Understanding has reportedly already been penned which provides NCL with a number of concessions over a thirty-year period. To sweeten the tea pot, if the project proceeds, government is undertaking to build infrastructure and allow cruise lines calling on the port of entry to keep casinos and shops open. But the proposal is already meeting stiff resistance from the community and environmentalists. This morning two familiar faces; environmentalist, Melanie McField as well as Stewart Krohn, chairman of the BTIA in Placencia, opposed the project on various fronts. This is what Krohn had to say.
Stewart Krohn, Chairman, B.T.I.A. Placencia
“The gist of the independent consultants report was and I quote from the executive summary of it…and I’m quoting, “the government of Belize should not approve a new port of call, contract or agreement of cruise lines for operation in Placencia.” Very clear, this is the government’s own consultant. The consultant gave its report, the B.T.B. endorsed it and the cabinet endorsed it; hence no permit was given for a port of call…this took place in 2011. Now let me go further. Last year, financed by the IDB, you have the Sustainable Tourism Project—big project, doing positive things for the tourism industry. They hired at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe more, another independent large team of consultants from Spain, came in to establish a sustainable tourism master plan for the country. This master plan was to point the way towards the year 2030 and see what Belize needs to do to really beef up its tourism industry. Let me quote from this report because it is talking about 2030 now. And it says, “Pocket cruise tourism is the only acceptable form of cruise tourism on the southeastern coast of Belize.” Let me read it again, “Pocket cruise tourism is the only acceptable form of cruise tourism on the southeastern coast of Belize.” Then they go on to define pocket cruise tourism as ships with less than two hundred and fifty people. Now this was also in 2012, endorsed by cabinet. This was an official policy of the Ministry of Tourism, endorsed by the cabinet and the words are clear. So an answer to your question, how can you even entertain a proposal for mega—this is mega tourism in the south of the country or anywhere else in the country—is beyond me when you have a clearly stated policy.”
The NCL project is likely to remain on the front burner in the weeks to come.