Indications are that Norwegian Cruise Line is underway in purchasing Crawl Caye, located in the South Water Caye Marine Reserve (a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site), for a large tourism project which includes two cruise ports of entry in the Stann Creek District. This week the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) joins Placencia residents against the giant cruise port development, citing several environmental impacts to the area and economic impacts to the country.
Belizean Minister Godwin Hulse is said to be heading a sub-committee for the project, while there are a couple cabinet minister that are against it. The project involves a 30-year concession which would include exemptions on import duties, income tax, general sales tax among other incentives, the use of foreign labor, fast tracking of permits, including environmental, construction, dredging and filling permits and operation of passenger tenders.
Below is a press release from the BTIA indicating their reasons for objecting the project:
- Press Release, Belize City, May 29, 2013 - The Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) views with alarm, the continued ongoing talks about Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) establishing a major cruise port off the coast of the southern Stann Creek District due east of the Placencia Peninsula. The BTIA stands firmly against this proposed establishment in Southern Belize for the following reasons:
Three years ago the BTB's own independent consultant concluded that Government should not permit the establishment of a cruise port in the Placencia area. Less than a year ago Cabinet gave its full support to the long anticipated Sustainable Tourism Master Plan. This exhaustive study, financed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), was emphatic that southern Belize remains an eco-friendly low impact destination. Where the study did address the cruise issue, its recommendations were clear and emphatic: "Pocket cruise tourism is the only acceptable form of cruise tourism on the south eastern coast of Belize". The report went on to define "pocket" cruise ships as those with less than 250 passengers. NCL's ships now coming to Belize carry over 2,000 passengers and those of other lines that are likely to be using this new port facility are even larger.
By opening the Southern portion of the country to large scale cruise ship visitation, the proposal fundamentally contradicts the country's tourism master plan and irrevocably positions Belize as a mass tourism destination. This 180 degree shift from Belize's identity as an authentic ecocultural destination is inexplicable in view of the uninterrupted success of Belize's dynamic overnight tourism sector. Overnight tourism, according to the Belize Tourism Board's (BTB) own statistics, not only weathered the global recession with minimal disruption but rebounded in 2012 with impressive 10 percent visitor growth and record breaking visitor arrivals. This trend was maintained in the first quarter of 2013 and is predicted to continue.
Additionally, huge investments, in excess of $6M are now being made under the IDB/BTB Sustainable Tourism Management Project in Memorial Park and the Fort George Tourism Zone in development of the commercial capital for present development of the cruise industry in Belize City. It is clear that the establishment of a large cruise port in southern Belize would eventually draw ships away from Belize City causing a significant loss on those investments being done today, as well as result in a serious loss of income and jobs to those tour operators, guides, tender owners, bus drivers, taxis, craft sellers and other service providers now operating in the commercial capital.
When coupled with the obvious environmental damage the cruise port would cause to its pristine marine surroundings and the potential of Belize being de-certified from UNESCO as a World Heritage Site (for development within those areas) it is clear that the NCL proposal is totally incompatible with the sustainable development of Belize's vital tourism industry.
The BTIA urges Cabinet and the Minister of Tourism in particular to consider all the ramifications of this proposed project and reject it outright and immediately.
Cabinet Denies Norwegian Cruise Line’s Proposal due to Environmental Impact; Accepts request to search for Alternate Site
Belmopan, June 5th, 2013 – Cabinet accepted the recommendation from a Technical Team working with Cabinet’s Sub-Committee, examining Norwegian Cruise Line’s proposal for a Cruise Terminal, that Crawl Caye in the Southern Waters cannot be developed as a cruise terminal because of numerous environmental considerations. However, in an effort to stimulate employment and open up other economic benefits for Belizeans in the South, Cabinet did support Norwegian Cruise Line’s request to search for an alternate site in Southern waters.
Any new site and project proposal will be presented to the current Cabinet Sub-committee chaired by Minister Godwin Hulse.