Cruise Tourism in Belize:
Expanding the Stakeholder Base to Ensure a Wider Distribution of Its Economic Benefits
1. The Issue
Cruise tourism is the fastest growing sector of the Belize tourism industry. Its unprecedented and explosive growth, and its potential for acting as a catalyst for various support industries and related economic activities, has singled it out as one whose expansion and sustainability is highly desirable for the contribution it makes to the continued growth of the Belizean economy. [Graphic from Belize Tourism Board (BTB) website]
As a relatively new industry, long term success and sustainability of the cruise tourism sector will largely depend on how the industry structure evolves to secure wide community participation and the consolidation of linkages with other economic activities (Jayawardena, 2002). It will also be affected by the extent to which the structure and stakeholder base of the industry provide for the dissemination of the benefits so that it results in socially visible economic progress.
The issue thus becomes: How can the economic benefits of the cruise tourism industry in Belize be made accessible to a wider cross section of Belizean society?
In this vein, the objective of this case study is to conduct a critical analysis of Belize’s Cruise tourism industry, with a view to identifying niche and support type opportunities for the integration of small and medium entrepreneurs and community organizations as active players into the tourism economy. Expansion of the stakeholder base would lead to a greater distribution of the economic benefits, a greater ownership and investment of the community in the product, and would advance attainment of the official policy objective “to assist development of tourism in Belize, optimize its contribution to the Belizean economy, while ensuring that growth is environmentally and socio-culturally sustainable.”
It is important to note that the cruise tourism industry in Belize is regulated by the Belize Cruise Tourism Policy, one of the most sophisticated policy frameworks in the region, and that the recommendations contained in this paper recognize and respect the parameters established by said policy.
A growing industry:
Cruise tourism is the newest and fastest growing sector of the Belize tourism industry. Cruise visitor arrivals grew from 14,183 in 1998, to 575,196 visitors in 2003, and one year later, in 2004, Belize welcomed 850,000 cruise visitors. New investments in the industry, such as the new US fifty million dollars cruise ship terminal that is being built in Belize City, promises to push the number of cruise visitors even higher in the near future.
In 2002, it was estimated that the tourism industry as a whole (including stay over arrivals), accounted for 15.6 % of GDP. Aggressive international marketing of Belize as a premiere “eco-cultural” destination also boasting marine activities, natural history and adventure type activities continues to translate into higher numbers of arrivals, both for stay-over visitors as well as for cruise visitors.
The socio-economic expectations and the political context:
The explosive growth of Cruise tourism in Belize is a dream come true for tourism industry planners, but expectations surrounding its socio-economic impact must be addressed to prevent it from becoming a political and socio-economic problem that could threaten the industry and affect its long term desirability and sustainability. Of great concern is the perception that though cruise tourists disembark by the thousands, all they leave on shore is money in taxes and arrival fees charged by the government, and the garbage from their cruise ship prepared pack lunches. Many people, especially in Belize City, feel that they are being left without a fair share of benefits or opportunities from this apparently lucrative industry.
The rather simplified view expressed above is not far from the truth. There are few major onshore players directly benefiting from this industry, and these are largely the sizeable transport companies that operate tour buses and the vessels used to transport cruise passengers from the cruise ship to shore.
Half moon Caye Natural Park; Photo from BTB Website
Apart from these major players, only tour guides, drivers, taxi operators, the business owners in the tourism village where cruise passengers disembark on shore and a few other entities are seen to be receiving benefits.
The issue becomes more complicated because of its direct bearing on the issue of sustainability, given that a major part of the Belize tourism attractions fall into the category of sensitive environmental areas, such as the archeological sites, the small offshore islands, the coral reef, the prehistoric cave systems and the rainforest canopy attractions. Environmental activists argue that without effective enforcement of the limits in the number of persons descending on these sensitive areas, high traffic to these places will lead to irreparable environmental damage, thereby killing the proverbial goose that lays the golden eggs. This perception that Belize’s natural beauty and resources are being exploited and depleted by a few underscores the imperative of managing the expansion of the cruise industry by broadening the base of stakeholders and creating the conditions for more Belizeans to benefit.
Community involvement and ownership of the industry:
Cruise tourism industry experts and industry writers agree that the long term success and sustainability of tourism (in the Caribbean) is predicated on its ability to ensure profitability, maintain product quality, secure community participation to strengthen linkages between tourism and other economic activities, and the eventual evolution into a diversified product such as eco, adventure, cultural or agri-based tourism. (Jayawardena, 2002). In Belize, the involvement of the average Belizean, the person in the street, is essential to ensure that these Belizeans feel invested in and develop a sense of ownership of this industry. It is only through a direct and beneficial involvement of small and medium entrepreneurs in the cruise tourism support industries that the perception of exclusion (of the ordinary person) from this industry will be removed.
The core cruise industry has tremendous potential to significantly create employment and generate economic activities through the creation of micro enterprises revolving around this industry. Locally crafted ceramic, glass and wooden souvenirs, music, cultural identifiers, and industry support services all have potential for development into economic activities that would give an average Belizean a stake in the industry.
Looking at Belize City and beyond:
Do not get lost. Photo by N Mendez. April ‘05
In terms of analyzing possibilities for employment generation and greater involvement, this paper will consider two main areas: (1) the regeneration of the inner parts of Belize City as part of the tourist package to bring economic activity to its residents (the new Cruise ship terminal is being built in Belize City). What needs to take place is a quantitative analyses of the actual and projected numbers of cruise visitors, the estimated expenditure in the country, numbers of jobs created, and what impacts can be expected if a policy of expanding the stakeholder base is pursued; (2) The potential for increased economic activity in areas such as archeological sites, animal sanctuaries and other attractions outside of Belize City that form part of the tours and activities offered to cruise visitors. This requires an analysis of the components of the typical tours offered to cruise visitors, to identify areas where the places visited and the services offered could be improved and expanded to encourage greater expenditure by the cruise tourist while on these tours. The employment and entrepreneurship opportunities generated through such efforts, e.g.: the establishment of visitors’ facilities and souvenir shops near the archeological sites, would result in greater community participation and involvement.
It is also important to highlight that the analysis and any proposed recommendations will be formulated bearing in mind the imperative of ensuring synergies in policy, investments and infrastructure that will benefit both the cruise industry as well as the general tourism industry catering mostly to stay over tourists.
3. Related Cases
he concentration of this case study on two main areas for integration of additional stakeholders: (1) the regeneration of parts of inner Belize City, and (2) the expansion of services, products and tours / attractions, necessitate consultation with two types of case studies.
“The Cruise Industry and Port City Regeneration: the Case of Valleta,” (Maccarthy, 2003) provides an excellent insight into the challenges, potential benefits, as well as negative developments to be guarded against when undertaking inner city regeneration for purposes of cruise tourism development. The main concepts that are explored in this case, such as the need to ensure that the community is involved, that infrastructure developments also benefit the community, that buildings and infrastructure investments have the best impact when they are laid out in mixed use areas, that the areas targeted for regeneration retain close economic and psychological linkages with the local community, that appropriate environmental, economic and social impact assessments are an integral part of any such development, all have a direct bearing and can be applied to the recommendation made in this case study for the regeneration of parts of Belize City.
The search for cases relevant to the second area of focus, the one pertaining to adding stakeholders by expanding services, increasing tours etc. has not met with much success. However, because the cruise tourism industry in Belize already operates within an excellent policy platform, focusing attention on expanding economic benefits and adding players is more a function of small business (product and services) development and poverty alleviation (training, job generation) than a strictly cruise tourism issue. This is the angle from which this second major area will be addressed.
4. Author and Date:
Masters in International Policy and Practice candidate
Elliot School of International Affairs
George Washington University
II. Policy Impacts
The Belize Cruise Tourism Policy already provides an excellent legal and policy framework for the regulation of the Cruise tourism in Belize. It is clear about its sustainability objectives, assigns responsibilities, and points clearly at the goals of inter-sectoral economic linkages. This policy was designed and was agreed upon after consultations with all stakeholders and organizations. Moreover, it provides an excellent foundation upon which to cement the adjoining structures that will focus on delivering the developmental objectives such as job creation, the generation of foreign exchange, generation of income, employment and business opportunities (Belize Cruise Tourism Policy).
The potential social impact of implementing a full scale initiative to broaden the cruise tourism stakeholder base and to get the ordinary Belizean involved and invested in the industry could have tremendous social impacts.
Effect on Belize City – Regeneration of certain areas of inner Belize City to form part of the cruise tourism experience, and as a part of the wider tourism industry attractions could contribute greatly to addressing the social ills of the old Belize capital. The physical cleaning up, the infusion of money in the form of investments in small businesses, restaurants, bars, cafes, cinemas, could transform the “ghetto” like areas suffering social malaise of crime, violence, and unemployment into an economically active, safe and attractive part of the city.
Effect outside Belize City – The social benefits to result from increased participation by local communities and businesses in the tours outside Belize City could also be positive and far-reaching. Empowering otherwise economically and socially secluded persons, such as women in rural areas who could set up vendor stalls in the villages en route to or near the tour destinations, could lift the pride and self-esteem of these communities and their people.
Although the Belize Cruise Tourism Policy provides a sound basis for the sustainable management of cruise tourism, the potential for abuse will remain as long as the few inbound tour operators retain the monopoly and to a large degree the responsibility for enforcing established visitor number limits, and the official enforcement agencies remain deprived of adequate resources to do full scale monitoring. This lack of resources is more attributable to generalized economic conditions rather than absence of political will to furnish the necessary resources at the levels needed.
In this light, expanding the base of stakeholders will result in a larger number of people being informed and educated as to the real economic reasons for protecting the proverbial goose, and their direct interest in the cruise visitor industry would mean that a larger number of watchful, zealous eyes will be protecting the environment.
This can only result in better, more generalized efforts to protect the environment, and would certainly be an improvement over the situation that prevails today.
It is anticipated and hoped that the major impact of an initiative to widen the base of stakeholders in the cruise tourism business will be in the economic sector. According to preliminary figures, Belize received approximately 851,436 cruise visitors in 2004. It is estimated that these visitors spent an average of US $ 46.00 per person. Increasing the opportunities for the visitors to spend more money on shore is expected to result in an increase in average expenditure per person. Even an increase of US $ 20 per person would result in an infusion of more than US $ 17 million into the Belizean economy (over present levels), and with the number of arrivals expected to reach the 1 million visitors per annum range by 2006, increases in average expenditure per visitor will translate into even more significant cash inflows.
The extent of the economic impact of such inflows will require a formal study, but on the surface, the direct effects on employment, production and sale of locally produced goods will be easily visible, especially in the rural areas where there are less employment and economic opportunities. In Belize City, investment inflows for the infrastructure necessary for the regeneration of Belize City will have a tremendous impact on the city’s economy, even before the direct economic benefits anticipated from the operation of the inner city as a tourist destination begin to be felt.
Afternoon in Belize City. Photo by N Mendez. April ‘05
There are also other potentially beneficial effects that can result from the above initiatives. For instance, the University of Belize and the Centers for Employment Training will benefit from increased demand for trained workers for the industry. Beyond the usual expected training in services, bartenders, tour guides, craft producers, additional training will be needed in small business management, marketing, etc.
9. Suggested Interventions:
Two main areas will require policy interventions:
The Belize Tourism Board, which is charged by the Ministry of Tourism with the management of the Tourism Industry, will need to intervene to help organize all cruise industry suppliers - inbound operators, service and goods providers, restaurants, community organizations and others stakeholders - into a functional operational structure.
There will also be the need for the setting and implementation of standards of services and goods for provision to the cruise tourism sector. These standards will require wide consultation with all stakeholders, and its implementation will require the active participation of both the official agency (Belize Tourism Board) and the private sector.
III. Legal Clusters
10. Discourse and Status/Policy Issue:
The Government of Belize is very clear in its designation of the tourism industry of Belize as one of the pillars for the economic development and growth of the country. The legal and policy framework in place is excellent. The Cruise Tourism Policy is a clear manifestation of the recognition of this sector as an integral part of the Belize tourism industry, and one that the Government is intent on supporting and facilitating.
In addition, since the expansion of the industry will of necessity incorporate merchandizing in certain cultural attributes of the country, it is important to note that the National Institute for Culture and History is very active in discharging its duties as the foremost promoter and preserver of Belizean culture. This institute has been recognized and accepted as an important partner in the development of the tourism industry, and it operates within an appropriately established legal framework.
11. Forum and Scope/Existing Policy Framework:
o International – Components of the Cruise Tourism Policy of Belize incorporates the highest internationally accepted standards in environmental protection and best practices for sustainability. It is not expected that these standards will be relaxed.
o National - In addition to the strict environmental regulations in place in Belize, there also exist labor regulations to protect the rights of all workers. The existing policy framework pertaining to the three main areas covered by this case study: environmental protection and sustainability; preservation and promotion of culture; and labor related issues, appears adequate.
o Regional - Matters dealing with the preservation of the environment, both marine and land based, are the focus of regional policy and cooperation efforts in the sub-region. The Belize Barrier Reef, the second longest Coral Reef in the World, is protected by an initiative known as the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System Project (MBRS). The goal of this project is to enhance protection of the unique and vulnerable marine ecosystems comprising the MBRS, and to assist the countries of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras to strengthen and coordinate regional policies, regulations, and institutional arrangements for the conservation and sustainable use of this global public good (Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System Project website : http://www.mbrs.org.bz)
In terms of regional land-based resources, the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor initiative enjoys the support of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and other Central American countries. Home to rare and endangered species as well as human inhabitants, the goal of the corridor is to integrate conservation, protection, and ecological balance within the framework of sustainable economic development. (Central American Commission for Development and the Environment, website : www.ccad.ws/)
The Mundo Maya Project, which seeks to promote the region as a single tourist destination, anchored on the ancient Maya traditional domains, is another regional effort providing a policy framework for sustainable cooperation in tourism and environmental protection. Funding for this project has been received from the Inter-American Development Bank, among other agencies
o Local – Involvement of community level actors will need some organizing, although the legal and policy frameworks are already in place. In Belize City, the City council is empowered to take the lead in matters dealing with policy pertaining to tourism developments within city limits. Outside of Belize, in rural communities that can serve as gateways to the archeological sites, natural reserves and other attractions, are legally empowered to make decisions that affect their development.
In terms of the legal framework and facilitating environment for entrepreneurial activities, the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service is willing, able and legally capable to assisting.
12. Decision Breadth/Stakeholders/Policy Actors:
The Cruise Tourism industry is tightly regulated, yet based on a solid partnership between the private and public sectors. The Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) incorporates most of the tourism industry stakeholders, including subsidiary specialized sectoral organizations. Decisions that impact the industry are widely consulted, and it is expected that an increase in the stakeholders for the cruise tourism industry as previously described will be welcomed by the present players since the increase in services and attractions for the cruise tourists will also mean an increase in attractions for the overnight visitors, which are the principal target of the wider tourism industry.
The organization of specialized sector stakeholders into functional associations to promote and defend their interests is a welcome development and a sign of structural evolution in the industry. The Belize Cruise Tourism Association, the Belize National Tour Operators Association, and the Belize Tour Guides Association are some of the associations which are already formed and functioning, and which are working with the BTB and BTIA to make sure that the tourism industry policy in place serves their interests. It is anticipated that the number and type of these organizations will increase as the stakeholder base is expanded. Indeed, it is imperative that community organizations and other potential stakeholders be facilitated with assistance to get organized as part of a strategy of expanding the stakeholder base.
13. Legal Standing/Legal Regulatory Framework/Suggested Policy Intervention:
The Belize Cruise Tourism Policy assigns responsibility to the port agent for all matters relating to cruise ship operations in Belize, including licensing requirement.
But beyond the operations of the ship itself, inbound tour operators also hold responsibility for the safety of the visitors. This means that an increase in attractions will need to take place in consonance with increased care to ensure that all new attractions adequately reflect certain safety and security standards.
It is important to note that the cruise tourism policy clearly articulates the safety requirements that are in place for all tours and attractions catering to cruise visitors and (overnight tourist). For instance, terrestrial tours require one tour guide for every fifteen tourists, and marine tours require one tour guide per every eight tourist. In addition, all sites included in tours clearly describe the type of activity, the level of exertion, age limits, and the type of health conditions that would prevent visitors from participating in the activities.
Belize’s tropical climate will also demand that additional restaurants and other places where food is prepared and stored will need to be closely monitored for compliance with public health and safety standards.
IV. Trade Clusters
14. Type of Measure:
Underscoring the thesis that expanding the stakeholder base is necessary to more widely disseminate the economic benefits, is the recognition that the stakeholders to be added are small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), and community based organizations (CBOs) that will also need technical assistance with product development, business managerial skills, hospitality services, and familiarization with the policy frameworks in place. Equally critical will be the need to help them get organized and establish linkages with the inbound tour operators that supply the cruise ship industry.
The Belize cruise tourism product is a unique combination of nature based attractions, transportation, local food, cultural events and products, music, etc. Increasing the type and quality of services and attractions through delivery of the above mentioned assistance to SMEs and CBOs will give value added to the product, and will result in more expenditure on shore, and an increase in the number of persons directly and gainfully employed in the cruise tourism satellite industries.
An assessment of the impact of the expansion of the stakeholder base could be carried out by looking at two indicators:
1. The increase in the average expenditure per landed cruise visitor.
2. The increase in the number of persons gainfully employed in the cruise tourism satellite industries.
An Economic Impact Assessment would also be highly advisable in the early stages to measure the effects of the policies recommended by this case study.
15. Relation of Trade Measure to Environmental/Tourism Impact :
a. Directly Related to Product:
Negative: Widening the stakeholder base impacts the product directly, as it basically incorporates more actors in the assembly line. This increase in active players is also premised on the expectation of an increase in the number of cruise visitors per annum. Both increases, more workers and more visitors, have a direct bearing on the carrying capacities of the attractions, and thus potential for environmental impacts.
Positive: At the same time, an increase in the level of average expenditure per visitor and number of jobs created will result in product improvements in the form of additional investments and greater community interest. In addition, investments in economic activities and infrastructure that occur in response to the demand from the cruise tourism sector will impact positively on the total experience of the overnight tourists.
b. Indirectly Related to Product:
Enhanced image of Belize internationally as a haven for eco-tourists, and as an example of sound environmental protection.
c. Not Related to Product:
Poverty alleviation through employment generation as well as an improved standard of living in inner Belize City and in the rural areas involved in the tourism industry are the unrelated but welcome results.
d. Related to Process:
Growth in demand for indigenous products is contemplated as the visit (product) is enhanced. This will result in improved capacity for the production of these goods. Likewise, overall improvement in the delivery of services will also benefit overnight tourism and business visitors who may be tempted to return as tourists.
16. Trade Product Identification/Trade and Services:
The Belize tourism product is an experiential nature based / eco-cultural / adventure tourism product containing rainforest (eco-experience), coral reefs (diving), caving and rafting (adventure), Maya archeological sites and Mayan and Garifuna indigenous communities (cultural heritage).
17. Economic Data
According to latest statistics released by the Belize Tourism Board, in 2004 the tourism industry accounted for 16% of GDP, and employs approximately 25% of the Belize Labor force.. Expenditures in the cruise tourism sector contributed about 14 % of the industry total.
The 2005 forecast for Belize by the World Travel and Tourism Council expects the travel and tourism industry in Belize to generate Bze $ 632 million of economic activity (total demand), with a direct impact of 6,450 jobs or 8.3% of total employment, and Bze $ 171.2 million, equivalent to 7.8 % of total GDP. However, since the travel and tourism industry touches on all sectors of the economy, in Belize the direct and indirect impact actually accounts for 15,422 jobs or 19.7 % of total employment, and Bze $ 438.6 million equivalent to 20 % of GDP. (World Travel and Tourism Council website, 2005 country report for Belize, www.wttc.org)
With regards to the cruise tourism industry, an Economic Impact Assessment is necessary to determine the present and potential impact on the Belize economy. However, with the number of visitors expected to reach one million in 2006, any increase in the average expenditure will be multipliable by one million. Thus, an increase of even twenty US dollars per person would translate into twenty million US dollars (or forty million Belize dollars) which, given the size of Belize’s economy, could have a great impact especially if the new economic actors are people who are newly employed.
18. Impact of Trade Restriction:
External - The number of cruise tourism arrivals could be restricted by new international concerns for security while traveling. It could also be affected by severe natural disasters such as hurricanes that result in damage to the environment and the attractions.
Internal - A restriction in the number of visitors below one million per annum would not be helpful for the cruise industry. Yet, setting a realistic limit is both desirable and necessary in the medium and long term in the interest of sustainability in keeping with established carrying capacity limits.
19. Industry Sector:
The international cruise line industry; international tourism involving cruise travel to Belize’s port and nature and culture based attractions.
20. Exporters and Importers:
Exporters are the cruise companies, inbound tour operators, and all actors in the tour delivery. The importers are the consumers, the cruise visitors on whom the Belize Tourism Industry wishes to create such as profound impression that they return to visit as overnight visitors or at least as repeat cruise visitors.
V. Macro/Environment Clusters/Tourism Policy Clusters
21. Environmental Problem Type/ Environmental Aspects:
The dangers of increasing the number of visitors and the number of attractions is that there will come a point beyond which it will not be possible to expand, and at which the sheer volume of visitors will start to have a detrimental effect on the environment, regardless of the monitoring in place. The extremely eco-sensitive attractions in Belize, such as the Coral Reef, the Rainforest Canopy Tours, the Natural Reserves, the underground cave systems, and the archeological sites all require a very careful monitoring and managing to make sure that the established carrying capacities are both realistic and implemented.
The challenge after getting so many actors involved will be to agree on “reasonable” caps
22. Resource Impact and Effect:
Belize’s main attractions are its natural resources, the rainforest, the archeological sites, the reef, etc. These are delicate and must be protected and preserved. They require a delicate balancing act between use and preservation, because their degradation and destruction would also destroy the industry.
23. Urgency and Lifetime/Urgency and Policy Review:
It is urgent to get more stakeholders involved in the short term, but great care must be taken that their incorporation does not dilute the value of the product. The cruise tourism industry of Belize is such that it must be kept under constant evaluation to ensure that the resources are used wisely, and that additional investments are respectful of established standards for sustainability. The tourism industry of Belize is critical for Belize’s long term economic well-being, and must be managed as such.
24. Substitutes/Alternative Policies:
Short of the discovery of oil in Belize, or the development of a massive and dynamic information technology based industry that could provide employment and displace tourism as the most dynamic industry, there is no alternative to community involvement for ensuring sustainability of the cruise tourism industry and continued economic growth.
From the external point of view, the increasing number of cruise destinations in the Central American region has the potential for cutting into the Belize niche of pristine environment and a well managed experience. This means that because the product (the Belize visit) could be substituted by its neighboring destinations, the continuous enhancement of the product becomes even more critical.
VI. Other Factors
The issue of culture must be addressed from two perspectives:
1. Preservation – given Belize’s population of about 280,000 people, the majority of which are young, great care must be taken to ensure that the arrival of visitors totaling about four times the amount of the population does not erode the Belizean cultural identity through excessive exposure. In order to preserve the Belizean culture, cultural promotion must be an integral part of any enhancement of the visit experience.
2. Promotion – The Government of Belize’s vision for long term tourism is the offering of a unique eco-cultural experience. In order to do this, culture must be conceived of as a national asset that requires nurturing for it to blossom and for it to be sufficiently strong to withstand the effect of massive merchandizing of cultural elements.
26. Trans-Boundary Issues:
Belize’s main assets are heavily dependent on the natural environment. In recognition of this, Belize is an active participant in several regional initiatives such as the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System project, the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, and the Mundo Maya Project. From the perspective of protecting the natural resources, these initiatives have proven invaluable.
But since the Belize Tourism Industry has agreed with its neighbors on the need to promote the Central American region as a single destination for overnight tourism, then it will become important that experiences, standards and best practices be shared among the neighbors to ensure success of the initiative. These experiences will eventually permeate into the cruise tourism sector, and could potentially help in getting the countries of Central America organized such that as a group they could negotiate for better terms from the cruise lines that visit the region.
In the mid to long term perspective, there is a critical need for the Central American countries to begin considering a Central American Regional Cruise Tourism Policy which would encompass issues of environmental sustainability and enable them to better manage the cruise industry and regulate the cruise lines.
Belizeans have a right to benefit from an industry that is based on Belize’s natural resources. They also have the right to have their natural resources protected and utilized in a sustainable way. The rights to have their culture respected and promoted are also balanced by the right of the cruise visitors to receive the best possible experience for the money they are paying. All these rights are not incompatible, and best reinforce each other when there is wide community participation.
28. Relevant Literature
In the absence of significant specialized literature looking at the cruise tourism industry in Belize, an effort is being made to establish contact with and to hear the views of those industry players in the Belize Tourism Industry Association (private sector), the Belize Tourism Board, the Ministry of Tourism, the Tour Guide Association, etc.
Literary sources dealing with Caribbean cruise tourism, with environmental protection, with regeneration of inner city areas, etc., are listed in the references section.
29. Policy Implications:
The most significant policy challenge facing this very successful industry is how to ensure that the benefits start reaching a wider sector of society. It is thus necessary to expand the stakeholder base, enhance the product, and grow the industry in a sustainable way.
More specifically, the Government of Belize will need to look closely at policy enhancements that will result in the setting of standards in the suppliers side of the cruise tourism industry. It will also need to assist these suppliers, especially entrepreneurs and community based organizations in getting organized to improve the product while benefiting from additional jobs and income. Education, training and institutional strengthening will be critical.
• That the Belize City Council, along with the Belize Tourism Board and the Ministry of Tourism, commission a formal study that would include an economic impact assessment and social impact assessment, to determine the feasibility, cost / benefit analyses, and potential long term effects of encouraging a privately funded initiative to regenerate parts of inner Belize City to form part of the cruise ship and stay over tourism attraction. Such a study should also consider whether or not private entities would be interested in investing in such an initiative. [The product offered by San Juan Puerto Rico – the Old San Juan area – could be used as an example.]
• That all inbound tour operators be required, as part of the cruise visitor tours, to have at least one stop in a local community market, local restaurant, or local business establishment that would provide a further opportunity for the cruise visitors to purchase Belize products.
• That the Tourism Training Unit be strengthened and deployed as the primary agent to work with the Village Councils Associations to facilitate the organization of community based organizations as suppliers of products and thus become cruise industry stakeholders. The initial villages to be targeted should be those communities with proximity to or on the way to established and potential cruise visitor attractions.
• The BTB and the BTIA need to work together to assist the establishment of linkages between the tour operators and small and medium sized enterprises, and community based organizations, so that these new stakeholders become product and service suppliers for the cruise industry.
• That the Belize Tourism Board undertake a publicity campaign through radio and television in Belize to :
1. Highlight how important the cruise ship industry is to Belize
2. Show how everyone has a part to play.
3. To talk about what benefits can be derived by getting involved in the industry
4. To highlight employment and entrepreneur opportunities that exist.
• That the University of Belize design and offer sixth form level courses in ceramics and glass making that would provide students with the technical know-how to produce souvenirs for the tourism industry. Once these types of production facilities are established, they can also be used to produce plates, ash trays, etc for the hotels and restaurants.
• That the National Institute of Culture and History strengthen its efforts to encourage and support local artists, and organize workshops for musicians and singers to let them know how to go about contacting the local recording studios for the production of their music.
• That the National Institute of Culture and History and the Belize Tourism Board work together to make sure that local Belizean music is played in the buses, in the restaurants, and in any other places visited by cruise and overnight tourist (where music would either be played as a matter of course, or where it would be a welcome addition.) Furthermore, locally recorded CDs containing the music being played should be available for sale where it is being played, including all souvenir shops.
• That the Ministry of Agriculture, through its countrywide network, encourage the production and preparation of fresh fruit juices and other local products such as coconuts, Belizean sea weed drinks, etc. to be available for sale near the attractions visited by tourists.
• That the Belize Tourism Board be pro-active in working with all sectors of the tourism industry in the joint establishment of standards of service that could be evaluated and promoted.
• That the Ministry of Tourism promote a policy of assisting entrepreneurs through the provision of basic business and tourism relations training, to ease their emergence as active players in this industry. That the Tourism Training Unit of the BTB be strengthened and institutionally linked for better coordination with the University of Belize and the Centers for Employment Training.
• That the Belize Tourist Board (Gov.) and the Belize Tourism Industry Association (private sector) team up with the Belize Credit Union League and other such financial institutions, to secure low cost financing for new businesses and expansion of existing ones.
• That the Ministry of Tourism work closely with the Centers for Employment Training to ensure that the training programs being offered are reflective of the tourism labor market demands.
• That the Ministry of Tourism, the Belize Tourism Board, the Belize Tourism Industry Association, the Belize Cruise Tourism Industry Association, the Belize Tour Operators Association, and other industry stakeholder, together request the Cruise Lines to partner with them for the establishment of an eco-cultural trust fund to be financed with voluntary contributions by cruise visitors. Funds collected would be invested in small conservation and cultural promotion projects in Belize determined by a trust oversight committee set up specifically for this. The voluntary contributions by the visitors could entitle them to in kind returns (dinners on board the cruise ship, shows, or on shore to dinners, tours etc) valuing up to 50% of their contributions. These in –kind returns would be provided by the cruise line and the on shore industry stakeholders. Such a mechanism is being successfully employed by a cruise line dedicated to taking ecological tours to the Galapagos Islands.
• That the University of Belize, along with the Department of the Environment and other participants as deemed appropriate, be requested to undertake a study to determine the feasibility and viability of recycling used glass and aluminum material into souvenirs and other usable goods. A pilot project could initially focus on recycling Belize city refuse, and if it proves viable, this could expanded to recycling presorted used glass and aluminum refuse from the cruise ships, to be transformed into souvenirs and sold to cruise visitors. The environmental, earth friendly, and publicity potential for such an industry could be tremendous.
• Finally, this paper joins in supporting an expeditious elaboration of a National Tourism Policy as announced by the Hon. Godfrey Smith, Minister of Tourism on April 6, 2005. The initiative to implement a National Artisans Seal and Seal of Excellence for the promotion of made in Belize products are also highly commendable and should be concretized as soon as possible. Both of these major policy initiatives are fully congruent with the other recommendations posited in this paper.
Belize Tourism Industry Association, “Strategic vision for Belize Tourism in the new millennium,” BTIA website: http://www.belizetourism.org/policy.html
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