September 4, 2013
Hon. Dean. O. Barrow,
Prime Minister of Belize,
3rd Floor, Left Wing,
Sir Edney Cain Building,
An Open Letter to the Prime Minister
As six past presidents of the Belize Tourism Industry Association, we have participated in our industry’s growth from its struggling infancy to its present status as the nation’s largest employer and earner of foreign exchange.
While there have been a few setbacks along the way, there has always been an understanding between the industry, the government of the day and indeed, the growing number of visitors to Belize, that Belize’s tourism product was “something special”, that its appeal was based not only on its world class natural attractions, but on the uniqueness and authenticity of our people and way of life.
This is what marketers refer to as a unique selling proposition, the thing that makes a product stand out above the competition and get noticed, and this has undeniably played a large part in Belize’s success.
Along with the thousands of people who make up Belize’s vibrant tourism industry, we are concerned that Government’s recent decision to authorize a cruise port on Harvest Caye in southern Belize runs counter to this long established understanding and diminishes Belize’s unique status as a true eco-tourism destination.
The decision also violates the Ministry of Tourism’s own explicit policy which was based upon extensive research, detailed independent studies and volumes of advice from local and international experts. The findings were clear: southern Belize was to be an ongoing model of eco-tourism; mass tourism, particularly mass cruise tourism, had no place among the pristine reefs, rivers and rainforests that continue to attract a growing number of visitors from around the world.
Belize is a one-of-a-kind jewel that is becoming increasingly rare and valuable, just as surely as mass cruise tourism is becoming more common and mundane.
When such a far reaching shift in policy with such irreversible consequences is presented, one would expect extensive industry consultation. The fact that the decision was made and MOU signed without the slightest bit of input from the industry itself makes us wonder exactly what is going on.
All we ask is for Belmopan to take a deep breath and press the “pause” button. Talk to the people who have worked for decades to position this country among the world’s most desirable destinations. Discuss what effect this decision will have on Belize’s reputation and ability to attract high value visitors in the future.
Let us take the time to work together and look closely at where our industry and indeed our nation should be going. Belize and Belizeans deserve no less.
Signed by: Jim Scott, Lucy Fleming, Paul Hunt, Rosella Zabaneh, Steve Maestre, Steve Schulte.