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Why Cruise Ships Are Bad
for Southern Belize -- not just Placencia

Deer Dance

Jobs:  Overnight tourism brings jobs.  In 2005, Belize hotels alone employed 4,045 people, with other tourism businesses, such as tour operators and transportation companies, directly employing another 2,405 people.  However, of the total of 6,450 people directly working in tourism in 2005, former Ministry of Tourism, Mark Espat, estimates that only about 645 of those people worked in cruise tourism. 

And that's only direct tourism employment.  Another 15,422 people in 2005 worked in jobs indirectly related to tourism, such as construction workers building or repairing hotels, farm workers on farms that sell citrus, bananas and food to tourism businesses, utility employees who work for BTL, BEL and Smart and provide phone and electricity to resorts and tour operators, and people employed by stores that sell supplies to the tourist industry such as liquor, butane, office supplies, furniture, water, sodas, paint, wood, tools, clothing, uniforms, vehicles, gasoline, automobile parts, plants, dishes, silverware, blankets, sheets, towels, candles, flowers and other goods.

In contrast, cruise ships buy very few supplies in Belize - they bring most everything with them - duty free - food, liquor, paper, printers, computers, tools, clothing, fuel, parts, furniture, plates, napkins and water -- they even bring their own souvenirs. 

Plus, the jobs created by cruise ship tourism tend to be low-paying ones - even tour guides are routinely paid less than BZ$50 per day.  On the other hand, overnight tourism jobs can be anything from a desk clerk to accountants, bookkeepers and managers.  And, overnight tourism jobs offer the chance to move up the ladder, something that cruise ship tourism rarely provides.

But, according to a 2009 study of Caribbean tourism, cruise ship tourism chases away overnight tourists -- and the jobs that overnight tourism brings. 

Does it make sense to chase away overnight tourism that provides almost 20% of the jobs in Belize for cruise ship tourism that provides less than 5%?  What happens to all those jobs if we lose our hotels and resorts?  What kind of construction jobs will cruise tourism bring that will replace the building of new hotels?  What happens to the clerks, accountants, bookkeepers, managers, stock boys and farm workers whose employers provide goods and services to overnight tourism businesses?

Can we afford to find out - especially in communities such as Independence/Mango Creek, Hopkins, Seine Bight, Dangriga, Santa Cruz and others where many, many people and families directly or indirectly depend on overnight tourism for most of their incomes. 

Crime and Culture:  Mass tourism, including cruise ship tourism, carries with it many dangers - increased crime, sale and use of drugs, and sexual exploitation of young people and women.  As has been forcefully demonstrated in Belize City, our police department and our politicians, both local and national, are simply unable to protect us.  Is cruise ship tourism really worth bringing the kinds of problems that Belize City faces to small rural communities in Southern Belize?  Can our local communities protect their children from the temptation of  "easy money" from some cruise ship passengers looking for cheap thrills and drugs?  Can local communities protect themselves against increased crime following cruise ship passenger money?  Increasing crime in many communities already seems to indicate they can't, and if they can't, is cruise ship tourism worth the risk?  (For reference, see Belize Child Prostitutes Called During School.

Environment:  We all depend a lot on our natural environment for jobs, drinking water, food (fish and forest products) and shelter (bush sticks, thatch and protection from storms) -- even some of our medicines and our fun.  Cruise ship tourism will bring thousands of tourists and their garbage and sewage to very ecologically fragile sites such as coral reefs, lagoons, rainforests and rivers.  And these tourists often don't share the same way of thinking as our traditional overnight tourists, most of whom are eager to learn about and conserve our natural heritage.  Plus, overnight tourists are much fewer in number than cruise ship tourists, and don't leave as heavy an environmental footprint.  Cruise ships themselves 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.  Can we afford to put our natural environment in danger this way? 

Infrastructure:  Some local communities in southern Belize believe that cruise ship tourism carries economic opportunity for them.  But, cruise ship passengers need bathrooms, roads and drinking water - things that many rural communities in southern Belize don't have for their own residents.  How will these communities afford to provide these amenities for here today, gone today guests when they can't provide them for themselves?  And without these amenities, the cruise ship tourists will not come.