Vendors Complain About BTB

Posted By: Marty

Vendors Complain About BTB - 03/06/13 01:55 PM

The artisans who work out of the BTB's Fort George Craft Market are tonight dissatisfied with the mode of business that they've been restricted to conducting. Over 2 years ago, the market was created to organize them in one general area where the tourists can visit, peruse and buy from them.

But according to them, business has been bad, and as a result, they've had to resort to leaving the market to approach tourists to convince them to buy.

They told 7News that if the tourism police officers will enforce the rules against them, no one should get preferential treatment. Here's how they explained it to us:

Timmy Stamp - Crafting Vendor
"In the yard where they have us selling carvings, it's not working. Nothing is not happening in there. So, I have to come out and walk on the street for me to make a dollar. If you don't walk on the street, you will not make anything."

Daniel Ortiz
"You have to approach people?"

Timmy Stamp
"Yes, you have to approach people. You can't wait for people to come to you, or nothing will not happen. They told us that we can't afford to walk on the street and sell our carvings. They told us we have to stay in our yard and sell our carvings, but nothing is happening in the yard. We can't stay in the yard. There are people right now who are not even a part of the tourism association, that are out there selling carvings on the corner of the streets. I don't think it's fair. Lots of the policemen who are doing toursim policing, enough of them are taking bribes. Some of them are taking $10-$15 dollars under the table. I will not pay them anything. I will not give them anything. So they will always pressure me and knock me down, because I will not give them a copper. I am not happy with them."

Roy Young - Crafting Vendor
"We used to be on the street operating, selling our art work to the tourists as they come off the cruise ship. And even the tourists, when they come off the ship, say it's better when we used to be on the street. Now 2 years ago, BTB put us in this horse stable, and what has happen is that we're not making any money. So what most of us start to do, is that we walk on the street with the jewelry on our hands, trying to make money on the outside because the tourists are not coming inside. For some reason they're scared. So any time we walk on the street, the police officers keep telling us that we can't walk on the street because we have a permit to be in the horse stable. So we can't go outside on the streets. Yet, they have other venders out there on the street selling stuff. So I want to know what's the difference."

Daniel Ortiz
"Does it not become disorganized when all the venders are on the street?"

Leroy Smith - Crafting Vendor
"No, well everything was in order, because before BTB came and regulate this thing, there was the City Council people that used to take care of us right. We use to pay a smaller fee, Far way smaller fee that what we have to pay now. We use to make it out there. Now these people created a new thing where they will push us away from here. We are already not making anything here, and talking about pushing us away at a park. At the park, it's worst; we will definitely not make anything."

Due to time constraints, we were not able to speak to the authorities from BTB, and we hope to catch up with them tomorrow.

Channel 7

Posted By: Marty

Re: Vendors Complain About BTB - 03/07/13 02:01 PM

BTB Says It Will Assist The Artisans

Yesterday, we showed you the discontent at the BTB's Fort George Craft Market in which the artisans complained about enforcement of rules, which confined them to the market while other artisans were allegedly given preferential treatment to approach the tourists at the gate of the Tourism Village.

They also added that since they've been forced to operate from the market, business has been slow, as compared to when they were allowed to sell their goods on the street corner. In all of the frustration venting, the artisans lashed out at the BTB for forcing them to operate only from that specific area.

Well, BTB heard their comments, and today, they spoke to us to set the record straight that they have no control over enforcement of those stray artisans who are breaking the rules. In addition, the Director of BTB also explained that they are cognizant of the issue that proximity to the Tourism Village determines whether or not the artisans make any sales for the day.

She outlined in detail why allowing artisans operate without regulation hurts the country's tourism profile, and what measures are being taken to assist them in the long term.

Laura Esquivel- Frampton - Director, BTB
"Really, ideally nobody should be close to those gates. I walk in and out of that village sometimes, you can see. Sometimes I am camouflaged that people don't even recognize that I am a Belizean, and I receive the harassment. It really is an unwelcoming presence for people to be shouting at you right at the gate. There is a lot of construction in the area, which in itself is causing a lot of upheaval. You don't know which street to turn right now, and so that causes a lot of people who generally are not supposed to be in the area, the ability to sneak in because there's not a wide view of this area. This is something we have to work with the Council, to continue to ensure that preference is given to those who have been out there working day in, day out, for the past 10 - 15 years, and that is our goal. We have part of this project, in which we are building stalls - proper big stalls as you can see them in the park and behind Mirab - for the very same venders that are a part of this association. Now I have to be very clear; it's the venders who are a part of the association. These are the people who are established and recognized as having been there working day in and day out. In addition to that; when the project is completed, there will be signage directing the tourist towards the venders. In addition to that, the Belize Tourism Board will be putting music and entertainment in the park, as a way to draw the tourist to the area. So it's a little unfair for the statements to have been made that were made. I understand everybody wants to take money home to their family, provide for their family. A lot of the upheaval that is happening is really due to the construction and it's the usual thing, progress brings problems."

According to Esquivel-Frampton, the BTB has gone to great lengths to assist the artisans, and they will be given a $50,000 grant for improvement in their crafts, and to purchase necessary materials and tools. According to her, that grant is still pending.

Channel 7

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