Cruise tourism is slowly making a comeback since reopening on July seventh with only one ship visiting per week. With ships traveling at around sixty percent capacity and not all passengers coming off to tour Belize City, tourism dollars are nowhere near where they used to be. Today, News Five’s Marion Ali went to check the situation on the ground and to see if guests to our shores are following the mask mandate.
Marion Ali, Reporting
It was not business as usual for the few taxi and tour operators who stood by hoping for a job outside the Fort Street Tourism Village. They haven’t seen good business for quite some time.
Jeff Dawson, Tour Guide, Way To Go Tours
“My boss has actually designed – we have a bus that goes around the city, they drink, they have a liquor license and they party and get a nice city tour. Sometimes he’d have four, five of those trips for the day. Today he only had one trip with half a bus. It’s just probably about 2% of the people coming off that actually see the local market. And stops us because a lot of people still don’t have a job.”
“On slow days like this what do you do?”
William Bradley, Vendor, Fort Street Tourism Village
“I try to interact with the tourists and try to get my sales but that’s been a little problem as well because of the pandemic, we can’t deal with the tourists like we really want to. I didn’t make any money today but maybe later on in the day something comes in.”
Director of Destination Planning and Cruise at the Belize Tourism Board, Noriko Gamero agrees that the industry is off to a slow start so far.
Cruise Tourism Director, B.T.B.
“It has been a very slow start, Marion. I think what we are used to seeing in comparison to what we’re seeing now it’s night and day. The tour operators that we had before are still not at the numbers that we had operating in 2019, when we were at our peak at over one point two million passengers. So, the slow restart is there. The tour operators are slowly coming back on board. It’s a supply and demand market at this point.”
Gamero says that the B.T.B.’s grants to small stakeholders continue to be disbursed to assist more tour operators and vendors to prepare themselves for the day when cruise tourism will be doing much better than now. Hopefully, that day is not too far off, with more ships promising to dock in our harbor in November.
“We continue to do the grant program to try to encourage more operators to become active and try to get them operational. The economic restart is essential to get more tour guides hired back. It’s in our best interest to make sure that they also survive, so that’s why we have to do these multiple strategies to get them back on board – selling, marketing themselves, getting their websites up and running as well.”
For anything to be up and running come November, Belize has to ensure that COVID protocols are being upheld. But today News Five’s camera caught a few visitors not wearing their masks properly. Or not wearing any mask at all. Gamero says if such incidents are brought to the BTB’s attention, they will impress on the security personnel and police officers present at the facilities that enforcement is key.
“The most important thing for the cruise industry is not to have a break out. I can’t enforce enough how important it is for the protocols to be abided by. Every security guard, every tour operator and tour guide. We’re all part of the team that has to make sure that we enforce these protocols so that the industry can remain open.”
Gamero says that since cruise tourism returned in early July, it has brought about eleven thousand cruise visitors to our shores.