Wednesday, January 12, 2011



Well the weekend newspapers cleared up a few things with cruise tourism in Belize. In interviews in the media quoting the Prime Minister´s visit to Miami, things sound GREAT for our government revenues, but lousy for local overnight tourist operators. In the competition between eco tourism and overnight visitors and the competing dash in and dash out, leave your garbage behind, of cruise tourism, the government is very concerned about their revenues.
Quoted was the fact that cruise tourism is leaving a $100 million a year in Belize to our government mostly. We have a national budget of around $800 million Bz in revenues or $400 million USA total. Our national debt is around a billion and a half USA.
Apparently Carnival threatened our Prime Minister and said they would cut Belize as a stop on their Western itinerary. That had to be a hollow threat. There is only Mexico, Belize and Honduras for them in the Western Caribbean. The gossip said they had been kicked out of Cuba for lack of leaving any money behind in the local economy. When I read that, I was inclined to advise our Prime Minister to BAN Carnival from Belize, I got so angry.
There is a lot of competition in the floating hotel, cruise ship market. At the moment, latest estimates put our cruise ship visitors around 15,000 per day, when the harbor is full of cruise ships. Outside of the shuttle services to shore and the tourism village and a few Mayan ruin tours, we citizens do not get any benefit from cruise tourism. I agree with Cuba on that, they only leave trash. Still, tickets at ruins which go to the government and whatever fees they charge to enter Belize make up a $100 million Bz a year apparently. Which goes into paying the bureaucrats salaries. If nothing else.
Apparently there are new ships being built in overseas dockyards, the business is so lucrative to the cruise ship corporations. It is projected our 15,000, 4 hour visitor flow per day will double within two more years. Already the TOURISM VILLAGE in the port of Belize City is not big enough. The cruise ship business want more destinations to offer their floating hotel guests. The emphasis is on spoiling the tranquility of Placentia. I think our government is going the wrong way here. They need to build a new tourist village in DEEP RIVER and develop the local sights around Toledo District. That is TRANSFORMATIONAL ECONOMICS. Sapodilla Caye is another prime site for a cruise ship stopover. This is a long small island on the barrier reef, deep water, sand, coconut trees and swimming for a couple of hours for thousands of visitors. Your picture postcard remote tropical island adventure for a couple of hours. Perfect!
Whichever way our government is going to go, they better do it fast. Belize City our port cannot handle a doubling of tourist visitors to 30,000 in one day. Our government need to spread these huge floating hotels around the country. Then it would do something for development in the style of TRANSFORMATIONAL ECONOMICS. Always keeping in mind, the cruise ship hotel business is flaky and uncertain and from one day to the next it could all collapse for some political reason, or terrorist act. There is nothing permanent about investing in the cruise ship business within Belize. You have to watch your investments, as the revenues do not pay immediately for any infra-structure, say at Deep River. Circumstances may see us in debt nationally and next week, they are gone someplace else and all we get stuck with are the debts.
The shuttle business is in an uproar, taking passengers from cruise ships anchored in the harbor, to the short port TOURISM VILLAGE, where they can shop and also catch tour bus trips. The demand, or OVERLOAD is straining resources. What started out as 3000 visitors a day, has boomed to 15,000 a day and local shuttle operators cannot keep up. Within two years, you are looking at 30,000 a day in visitor flows. Quite rightly the cruise ships want insured shuttle carriers, they also want bigger carrying capacity to serve six, and eventually twelve floating hotels at a time here in this shallow harbor. The local shuttle operators have been tasked now to form a corporation of their own and join together under the umbrella of the Belize Tourist Board. The local guys have been borrowing money to build boats, but the visitor overload with Belize as a prime destination, makes the boats quickly too small. Carnival is complaining that they want to go from 120 passenger boats to minimum 150 passenger boats. Obviously, the projections of cruise ship passenger inshore shuttle loads within two years will make even a 150 passenger boat too small. You are going to need 500, to 1000 passenger shuttle craft within two or three years. For locals to borrow money from the banks, or Development Finance Corporation to do this, puts their investment in jeopardy. Can they pay off a new 500 passenger shuttle craft in 10 months? These have to be short term loans, less than 18 months, or the deal is no good. There are no guarantees with floating corporate hotels, called cruise ships. If you can´t make enough money to pay off a new bigger shuttle craft in a year, the investment is fraught with dangerous risk of bankruptcy. The best idea would be to transfer some of the load of visitors we are expecting to another destination. I agree Placentia is not that destination, it should be DEEP RIVER and open up the TOLEDO DISTRICT. At least there, the cruise ships could come alongside. I also think the cruise ship corporations should pay for building the dock for them to tie alongside. The financial risk is not ours to take. The business is too risky, as they can cut us off from one day, to the next.
There are reports these cruise ships are flushing their feces and waste water inside the barrier reef and Turneffe Atoll. We need aerial spotter patrols from the coast guard, or satellite coverage real time, which may be cheaper to keep an eye on them.

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