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Cruise Tourism Threatens Placencia:
More Why and How


Overnight Tourism:  . . . This overnight tourism with its known economic benefits outweighs the possible economic benefits from cruise tourism, as proven by an extensive study of the cruise ship industry in Belize sponsored by the Belize Tourism Board, which found that overnight tourism brings MUCH more economic benefits, employment and taxes to Belize with much less environmental damage than mass cruise tourism.  Overnight tourists stay in local hotels, eat at local restaurants, take tours with small tour operators and buy from local gift shops and grocery stores, so the money they bring stays in the local economy.  Cruise ship tourists are most likely to buy from the cruise ship company, using big, usually foreign-owned, tour operators and cruise ship operated or affiliated restaurants and gift shops. Therefore, very little money trickles down into the local economy from cruise ship tourism.  Many jobs are also created indirectly by overnight tourism, such as construction jobs for new hotels, restaurants and gift shops, jobs in businesses that sell to hotels and local restaurants (such as grocery stores, and businesses selling paper products, tablecloths, clothing, furniture, flowers and other supplies), -- even jobs on farms that supply juices, produce and other products either directly to local hotels and restaurants, or who sell to the  stores that supply them.  Cruise ships bring in their own products and buy very, very little, if anything, from local Belizean suppliers.

Environment/Carrying Capacity:  . . . How can these small sites accommodate thousands of tourists a day without irrevocably damaging Placencia's natural heritage?   Plus, overnight tourists, who are much fewer in number than cruise ship tourists, don't leave as heavy an environmental footprint.  Cruise ships also bring with them the dangers of water and air pollution from sewage, garbage, incinerator and diesel emissions that can kill marine life and threaten the health of people.  Belize law does prohibit the dumping of sewage, garbage and the like into our territorial waters, but, as noted under Enforcement, Belize has no enforcement capacity to ensure that cruise ships comply with Belize laws.  Belize's 2007 Cruise Ship Policy also requires the setting of carrying capacity limitations for sites visited by cruise ship passengers.  These carrying capacity limitations have never been set as required by the Cruise Ship Policy.

Employment:  . . . Overnight tourism jobs also provide opportunities for advancement while cruise ship tourism jobs are often low-paid and offer little opportunity to move up the employment ladder.  (Most tour guides in Belize City are paid BZ$40 (US$20) per day by the cruise line tour operators and can be required to guide 40 or more tourists on a single snorkeling trip, despite guidelines requiring one guide per 8 snorkelers.  (The average wage for a tour guide in Placencia is BZ$100 (US$50) per day.)

Planning:  . . . According to IADB documents for the Belize Sustainable Tourism Program, planning for Placencia includes maintaining the small-scale, authentic character of the Placencia Peninsula and its villages.  The Government of Belize agreed with this goal when it accepted the loan from IADB, and Belize taxpayers will be paying for the study for years to come.  Why would Government spend so much taxpayers’ money to create a locally empowered Tourism Master Plan for Placencia and then announce that cruise ship tourism is coming to Placencia before the planning even begins? So much for master planning and responsible governance.


Local Control:  . . . Placencia Village passed its by-laws for regulation of the Village in 2002. Eight years later, those by-laws remain in limbo because national government refuses to complete the process of enacting them into law, despite years and years of heavy lobbying and repeated pushes by the Placencia Village Council to have the by-laws enacted. Local residents tell national government they don't want certain kinds of developments, but the national government approves them anyway. Southern Belize communities can't control cruise tourism, especially when one single cruise ship company, Carnival, had revenues last year of over 40 TIMES that of the entire country of Belize.  What kind of negotiating power or control can local communities have under those circumstances? 

Mass Tourism: . . . Further, Royal Caribbean is the cruise line that plans to come to southern Belize.  According to the company's Website, it has no boats that carry fewer than 700 passengers plus 360 crew members.  The niche tourism market for southern Belize is tourists looking for small, ecologically and culturally friendly destinations concerned with responsible tourism.  Mass tourism (and 700 people IS mass tourism for southern Belize) simply cannot co-exist with this niche market and the national government has demonstrated neither the will nor the ability to contain cruise ship tourism so that it stays within a manageable and sustainable size.

Social and Cultural Disruption:  . . . Schools are grossly underfunded, and social services few and far between. Further, cruise ship tourists visit a destination for a day, take photographs of the locals, and most likely cross the destination off their "to do and see" lists.  In contrast, overnight tourists have the time to get to know real people and their families, to learn about their cultures and societies, and often to develop lasting friendships carried on in the electronic age by email.  (Many Placencia tour guides even routinely visit their tourist friends in their home countries, opening up tremendous new worlds of cultural exchange.)     


Infrastructure:  . . . According to the current Placencia Village Council Chairman, Charles Leslie, Jr., garbage pickup and disposal for the Placencia Peninsula is already hanging by a financial thread.  Villages in Belize have no taxing authority, and the national government is barely able to make crippling loan payments to international lenders.  Therefore, who will pay for even more critical infrastructure that will be needed if mass tourism comes to southern Belize?  Where will the money come from for Placencia, Monkey River, the Nim Li Punit and Lubaantun Mayan ruins, the Cockscomb Wildlife Reserve, Blue Creek Village and others to install public toilets and provide proper sewage disposal, pave roads, repair roads, pickup and dispose of garbage, clean up litter - even bring water supplies to tourist sites that currently have none?  And, importantly, even if the money can somehow be raised to finance this infrastructure, will its costs outweigh the possible benefits from cruise ship tourism?