The Fort Street Tourism Village was once a vibrant disembarkation point for cruise ship visitors, a place that bustled with excited new arrivals who freely interacted with the locals, purchasing their products and services, and providing many of them with an independent means of making a living form tourism.
But according to the tour operators and vendors that remain active in the FSTV, those days are long gone. They say that their opportunities to live from cruise tourism revenue has been worsening for three years now, and according to them, the cruise and big tour companies have stifled their business ventures, even resorting to smear campaigns.
And, this week, as what is supposed to be the cruise tourism high season is approaching, the frustration is building among those vendors and tour operators. They today shared their plight with Cherisse Halsall:
There were three ships in the Belize City Harbour today. Those ships brought approximately 6,000 people to our shores. They're here to visit ancient Maya temples, go cave tubing, take a city tour in a horse drawn carriage and maybe pick up a souvenir or two. But local tour operators and vendors from the Fort Street Tourism Village say that they aren't getting any of that action.
John Pollard - Big John Tours "Every passenger that comes in the government collects its share. We don't make a dollar. Every one of us out here goes home daily for the past three months without a dollar. Some of us are fortunate, other ends. Some of us are unfortunate. Nothing to do."
And while arrivals at FSTV have declined since Stake Bank opened up in Placencia, these tour operators say that the downward turn for them started three years ago.
Jimmy Robinson - President, Belize City Tourism zone tour operators and workers association "We have seen our income plummet roughly about 90% throughout the past two to three years and one of the primary reasons is that the contracted operators are taking more than 80% of the guest arrivals into our countries on tours and also the blackmailing and black listing of personnel inside of the FTSV village right behind me. The people inside that are selling tours on the inside are saying don't take tours with us because our vehicles are not safe we have no insurance and if they get left in Belize we would not be able to fly them back to their destination which is totally untrue because the same tour operators and tour guides inside the FSTV they have the same license and insurance that we have."
But given the drastic year on year decline in revenue that they claim to be facing, will their sector of the tourism industry still be viable in the coming months?
Carol - Hair Braider "Since they put up the gate about 2005 we stop making money they told the tourists a whole lot of that don't come on the outside because they're going to rob you and but all the tourists that are inside the goddamn gate still have to come out here to go on tours. So how come they don't rob those ones who are walking who go on tours to the Altun Ha, to the Maya mountains, everything they have to do from out the gate they have to come out here. So we need them to stop telling the tourists lies to get all the money to go back to wherever they come from and we need money in Belize because we are poor people down here. We are third world people and we are suffering underneath the government gotta go. Now we can't even take care of the kids them, we've had to cut the food short so that we can pay our bills and stuff because tourists is not like before. Tourists is not like before in Belize. It's getting worse."
Leroy Smith - Artisan & Vendor "The area where we are they aren't directing any tourists towards us. We were already getting crumbs and now no crumbs are left on the table for us. We aren't making any money like that this is just a front the government and the big peoples are just fronting because nothing is shingling down to us to the poor have nots. We aren't getting anything."
Lawrencio Bol - Secretary "24 years being in the industry this is the worst, worst, when I am talking about this is part of our economy. This is our industry."
The BTB has not released the third quarter figures for cruise tourist arrivals.