Belize Times is reporting the PM Dean Barrow’s comments on tourism in his Independence Day speech would drag the country’s fledgling industry in the wrong directionâ€”i.e., the cruise ship and massive development direction. This, after Barrow apparently was a no-show for his scheduled talk at last week’s International Conference on Responsible Tourism, a huge deal for Belize to be hosting. I hope the PM strongly considers this editorial:
“If Belizeâ€™s tourism growth is to be done responsibly, why is the Prime Minister boasting cruise plans for the southern part of Belize? Shouldnâ€™t we focus on controlling this type of tourism? Instead of expanding it, shouldnâ€™t we be discussing how we can manage the existing traffic we are getting so that our protected areas, cultural sites and other natural features of this country (both marine and terrestrial) are no longer being desecrated and damage by the volumes of people who come to our shores just for a few hours?Â If we are to really Be One With Belize shouldnâ€™t PM Barrow speak more about plans to promote the overnight sector that boasts boutique style hotels, trained and qualified local guides and local tour operators, standards and best practices for operators, restaurants and all others involved in an industry that should promote the natural beauty of this country and not one that will cheapen it?Â Do we really want cruise tourism to go any further than it has? Donâ€™t we learn from our mistakes?”
These are important questions to ask, especially in light of Belize’s poor score on the recent National Geographic places poll. Belize has a huge head start in paving the way for responsible tourism projects, community tourism efforts, village homestay and guest house programs, etc. That’s why it’s a shame to see bigger and bigger developments plow through protective mangroves, or the promotion of any kind of cruise ship increase. Belize’s roads and bathrooms can’t handle the traffic already, and most would argue that only a few parties benefit from cruise ship day-trippers.