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#519191 - 11/22/16 12:03 AM Cruise Ship Blues Hit The South Early  
Joined: Oct 1999
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Last week Thursday, Norwegian Cruise Line's multi-million dollar cruise port on Harvest Caye officially opened with the arrival of the Norwegian Dawn. Our news team gave you a long distance look at that opening, and the Government Press Office, which was the only media entity invited, provided an on-the-ground look of what the island getaway looks like today.

So, Cruise Tourism has arrived in the south, and the Harvest Caye business pie is being shared up among the local tour operators. But one local operator in Big Falls village who had hoped to cash in, says he got cut out, and now Norwegian's choice contractor has taken his idea, and his location, leaving him with a bitter taste and a bum investment.

It's the Cruise Tourism Blues, which we've heard from so many small operators over the years - as the multinational rolls through, gobbling up, or marginalizing everything in its way. Andrew Caliz has learned fast the ruthless rules of the cruise business and today he crystallized the moral of a story with no happy ending:...

Jules Vasquez, 7News
"You thought that for sure you were first in line to capitalize off this tourism boom with cruise tourism in southern Belize?"

Andrew Caliz, Big Falls Extreme Adventure
"I knew I would be in a very good position. At the time I thought that you know what I would be a prime cut for them to come and I knew that it wouldn't be overnight, because there would have to be some adjustments, there would have to be maybe some more investment and I would have to meet their standards. But it's not something that we couldn't get done. After all BTB who is the ruling body had given me permission and actually we are a tour operator. So I would think that things would be channeled through them and say hey they have a man down there, so we want you work with this man."

Jules Vasquez, 7News
"But you were sadly mistaken?"

Andrew Caliz, Big Falls Extreme Adventure
"I sort of think so. The big men are in and the pie has already been cut."

Jules Vasquez, 7News
"And you got served out."

Andrew Caliz, Big Falls Extreme Adventure
"Yeah, I guess that's one way to look at it. It's been served and I am not at the table. Over the news you always here they are coming in southern Belize and it's all about the poor people down south and I figure well I would be first in line for them to want to use my services and I never thought that it would been all, but I would be in the game, because you are registered under BTB. So why did they not made me involved because I am a son of the soil and I have done my investment? Why would they not. Sadly it's not that case."

There's more to Caliz's story, as he had an exchange of words with the competing operator, which may have gotten him in some police trouble. Tomorrow, we'll have the rest of his story.

Channel 7

#519214 - 11/22/16 11:59 PM Re: Cruise Ship Blues Hit The South Early [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,980
Marty Online happy
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Big Falls Operator Says He Got Jilted In Big Falls Tourism Deal

Last night you saw the first part of our interview with Andrew Caliz. He's the southern tour operator who's got the Cruise blues after his hopes of doing business with Norwegian Cruise Line evaporated. Caliz is the owner of Big Falls Extreme Adventure on the Rio Grande River in Big Falls Village. He had connected with cruise tourism mega-operator H2O Tierra to rent out his riverside property. But, for many reasons, the deal fell through, and Tom and Ivette Wilson, the owners of H20 Tierra ended up going up the river from Caliz, to the Big Falls lodge to set up their zip lining and river tubing tour. Caliz is wounded by this since he was the first one to set up that kind of tour in that area. and things came to a head last Friday when he found his tubes punctured. For Caliz, that single event crystallized everything that is wrong with Cruise Tourism in the south, and yesterday he told us why he feels angered and betrayed:...

Andrew Caliz, Big Falls Extreme Adventure
"When I found out that the tubes were flat, I made it my business to go and ask the henchman down there and he said he is a Jamaican Man and cruise ship is here and he says 'he is here to stay, there is very little he could do, I am sorry for you Andrew, If I were you I would be pissed off, but there is nothing you can do my brother.' So basically that's where I am at."

Jules Vasquez, 7News
"However, he ended up making a complaint about you. You all had an exchange of words. Did you threaten him?"

Andrew Caliz, Big Falls Extreme Adventure
"No, I didn't threaten him. I must say that I was upset."

Jules Vasquez, 7News
"Why were you upset?"

Andrew Caliz, Big Falls Extreme Adventure
"After being the only operator on that river, I didn't have to worry about my tubes up there. As a matter of fact this was Friday. I thought the cruise would have been through on Thursday, but the Friday when I went there my tubes were punctured. Now wouldn't that make you upset? I won't roll over and play dead. I have invested and I will try my best to continue the business, especially after having a gentleman agreement with them, that they wouldn't tamper with me and knowing that I been there from the get-go. I mean you have to understand this my brother, I am a son of that soil and I don't need the whole of Toledo to back me up. I supposed to be able to continue to do tours just the way it was, He is the one who needs to make the adjustments. He is not from here, he is not from PG, and he is not from Big Falls. Why would BTB allow a man like him to come there and run over me? Could you count the amount of rivers between the Rio Grande and Mango Creek? There are many that are not doing anything. Why couldn't he leave me alone? Why would BTB allow him to come and stifle me to death? Why?"

"I am here to bring my concern about how BTB allow those guys to come and not work with me and yes, you don't have to work with me, but leave me to do my thing that I use to do, because yes, you do have a choice. You don't have to work with me. You don't. But leave me to do what I've been doing."

Jules Vasquez, 7News
"So what happens next?"

Andrew Caliz, Big Falls Extreme Adventure
"I am in a position between the rock and the wall and when you have this kind of investment setup to see an outsider come in, you kind of leave with a like who have your back here? The government is not taking care of you. I mean BTB has gone down there and say you all need to start up this and has encourage small businesses. But when they turn their back after you have done these kinds of investments - you start to wonder."

We did speak to Tom Wilson via text message. He told us that they did their "utmost" to work out a deal with Caliz and were "more than willing" to do so. But after a year and a half of negotiations, just as they were about to sign the contract, Wilson says Caliz disclosed that the property was in his mother's name, and had been willed to him and her other children. Wilson says that made it impossible to move forward since they could not set up on a property he did not own. Caliz says he provided Wilson with signed authorizations from his siblings to proceed with the project. As for the punctured tubes, Wilson says his company doesn't do things like that and, added, quote, "if any tubes were punctured, he did it himself" end quote. Wilson confirmed that his manager made a police report over "very serious threats" that Caliz issued.

Channel 7

Tom Wilson’s Side Of the Story

So, NCL's ships will go almost exclusively to Harvest Caye to ensure the greatest revenue stream for that Island port. While that has city tour guides already feeling the pain, last month we spoke to Andrew Caliz - a Toledo Tour Operator who also says he's been boxed out. Caliz owns Big Falls Extreme Adventure on the Rio Grande River in Big Falls Village. He had connected with Tom Wilson's H2O Tierra to rent out his riverside property. But the deal fell through, and H2O Tierra ended up renting from the Big Falls Lodge, further up the Rio Grande.

Yesterday we asked Wilson if he gave Caliz a raw deal:...

Tom Wilson
"Contrary to what he might have said, we actually worked for Mr. Caliz for more than a year and a half trying to come to an agreement to utilize his site there at big falls. He had an investment there yes, BTB actually contacted us and asked us to please try and work with him. We started more than 2 years ago negotiating on Mr. Caliz to use his property. We invested quite a few thousand dollars putting together a contract agreement. Also we surveyed out the area that we would be using so that we could actually use a legal description in the contract. And unbeknownst to us, Mr. Caliz represented that he owned the property, but in the last days just before signing of the contract, I asked Mr. Caliz 'please show me your land title before we sign off' because we were doing a very large investment there. Mr. Caliz said 'I don't really own the land, it's still in my mother's name, it was in her will and all my brothers and sisters own the property'. That negated any possibility of us being able to work with Mr. Caliz on that property. At that point in time we only had 2 months left before the ships were coming here at harvest Caye and we had to scramble like wild people to be able to put together a venue so we can actually employ the people that we do employ now. Mr. Caliz could have been upfront in the very beginning and let us know he did not own the property and we could have made some kind of arrangement to possibly use it. It came as a total surprise to us and that's what caused us not to have the opportunity to work with Mr. Caliz even though we made extensive efforts to do so."

Daniel Ortiz, 7News
"So this claim that you all at the last minute changed the goal post, forcing him out is a misrepresentation?"

Tom Wilson
"Well we weren't the ones changing the goal post, they were on his property and those goal posts were changed by someone other than ourselves."

Wilson stressed to us that he could not expose his company to liabilities because Caliz doesn't actually own the property - his family does collectively. Caliz says his other siblings had indicated, in writing, their readiness to sign it over. Wilson says time ran out, and he had to make urgent preparations or risk losing the Harvest Caye connect.

Channel 7

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