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Nov 7, 2014

Tour Operators Protest New Cave-Tubing Regulations

FECTAB held a press conference this morning and as expected, there was some drama to the proceedings because archrivals were sitting at the same table united in a common cause. But in the following story, News Five’s Isani Cayetano deals with the real purpose of the event. Tour guides are feeling the pinch; new regulations imposed under the initiative, Making Tourism Benefit Communities Adjacent to Archaeological Site, are cutting into their bottom lines. Persons less than four feet in height can no longer go caving. The result is that families are turning back in droves. Here is that report.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Cave-tubing is among few water-based activities closely tied to the local tourism industry.  Every year thousands of visitors converge on Nohoch Che’en to experience the outdoor adventure of drifting along the meandering waterway within the cave system.   The pastime has grown exceedingly in popularity and has become the livelihood of choice for a number of tour operators offering the activity to sightseers.  Today, however, there is uproar within that sector of the industry as visitors are now being required to stand forty-eight inches or taller to go cave-tubing.

 

Vitalino Reyes

Vitalino Reyes, Tour Operator, Cavetubing.bz

“They never communicated to us and said “you know what, effective so and so we’ll be implementing this law or this regulation or this standard of forty-eight inches.”  They are hurting my guests feelings because they travel as families.”

 

The contention is that the requirement is too stringent and is forcing families with children under the prescribed height away from the site.

 

Yhony Rosado

Yhony Rosado, Tour Operator, Cavetubing.com

“Just yesterday I got twenty-one people returned back.  You’ll ask me [were] you carrying twenty-one kids?  No.  Only three kids, one in a family of five, one in a family of eight and one in a family of seven, I believe.  Each family, when the kids cannot go cave-tubing we are not going and they were not mad at the government.  They were mad at the park rangers, they were mad at us the tour operators, they were mad at everybody that they could see.  They don’t get to see NICH, they don’t get to see the government, they get to see the immediate persons and they go off at us for their mis-booklet.”

 

According to FECTAB, the guideline falls under an initiative known as Making Tourism Benefit Communities Adjacent to Archaeological Sites.

 

Yhony Rosado

“A project funded by the European Union and the Government of Belize.  They got money to teach us and give us a manual how to do cave-tubing without consulting us.  This right here, this book is ridiculous.  You come with us with your families, we provided an extra tour guide, kids tubes, kids lifejackets, everything.  So what are they doing now?  Listen, where we’re going there are a lot of kids so our guests are complaining that we are not taking kids but the local people are taking kids.  Find a way how to stop them.  They found it through NICH.”

 

The Federation of Cruise Tourism Associations of Belize, FECTAB, is accusing the National Institute of Culture and History of devising a newly implemented safety policy which prohibits the participation of anyone under forty-eight inches, including children.

 

Tom Greenwood

Tom Greenwood, President, FECTAB

“To be fair to the B.T.B., the B.T.B. and FECTAB members met, they tried to help but they tell us, “Look, we license you as guides and operators and so [but] when it comes to NICH parks they are responsible.”  I’ve had a person from NICH tell me, “Bwai, dah B.T.B. you know.”  To which I said, “That’s nonsense.  B.T.B. noh responsible for that, da unu.”  So it just shows me an incomprehensible concept.”

 

Among other concerns is the advent of Dark Night Cave-tubing, which FECTAB also claims is benefiting from a sweetheart agreement.

 

David Almendarez, Tour Operator

David Almendarez

“Dark Night da mi wah big secret.  We hyah rumor, we noh allowed pan di property.  Again, you have people in place, NICH, that is supposed to be regulating these people.  We knew nothing about it, nobody consulted us about that, that was a private deal done and the head of NICH has sanctioned it.  This blows my mind away because I had a meeting with a certain member of the Belize Tourism Board and they went and tried to check it out themselves and they were not allowed on the property either.  So obviously, whoever Dark Night is, I don’t know if he’s a knight in shining armor or what, but he gets some special, preferential treatment.  He gets his own cave, he gets no regulation… alright does anybody in this room knows the exact deal Dark Night got?  Nobody, no consultation.  I’m telling you somebody in the higher echelon sell we out.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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