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Jan 28, 2005

Tour guides unite to upgrade vehicles

Story PictureUnited we stand, divided we fall. That’s the message Belize’s striking labour unions have been sending out for weeks. But that credo applies far beyond industrial or political disputes. Today a group of well organised tour guides put the ideal of collective action into practice.

Stewart Krohn, Reporting
If you?ve ever been lucky enough to buy a new car, you know there?s nothing like the shine of the paint, the smell of the interior and the proud feeling of ownership. Well, this morning that feeling was multiplied by twelve as the Belize Cruiseship Taxi and Tourist Guide Association inaugurated its first fleet of ?new brand? Toyota vans.

Carlos Lopez, President, Cruise Taxi Association
?We checked with the local bank for financing, but they wanted a land for collateral. So I spoke with Mr. Pie Marin from Belize Diesel and he financed the vehicles through financial enterprise for me. This is the first stage of a hundred vehicles. We plan to get a hundred vehicles in the next three years.?

Initially the new vehicles are owned by the association and assigned to individual members, who, after making regular payments over three years, will take over ownership. But can the business of carrying independent travellers off cruise ships support a fleet like this?

Roy Flowers, Cruise Taxi Association
?Yes sir, because the way how the payment plan is structured out, every week you have to pay a percentage for the vehicle. So at the end of the week you know you?ve covered your payment at the end of the week.?

Carlos Lopez
?We have eighty percent of our taxi drivers who are now professional tour guides. They go throw specific training in history, archaeology and botany to ensure that the tourists get a proper tour of Belize; a good experience of the country. They are all professionally trained guides. They carry a license like this one I’m wearing.?

?We are ensuring that when the tourists come to Belize, they go back with experience of new vehicle, professional guide and a good experience of the country.?

For tour guide Narciso Garcia, today?s move was a long time in the making.

Narciso Garcia, Cruise Taxi Association
?It?s something that we have been working for a very long time as independent tour guides and taxi drivers coming together as an association twelve years ago, we have set this as a goal and today this is what has come as reality.?

And is there a message for other normally independent operators in tourism and other businesses?

Narciso Garcia
?In many industries there are a lot of people that have knowledge and skills, but independently they cannot get things done. If they were to come together as an association at the lower levels like what we have done everything is possible.?

Stewart Krohn for News 5.

The new Toyota vans each carry a maximum of fourteen passengers. The tour guides work out of the Fort Street Tourism Village under an agreement with the village’s management.

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