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Mar 20, 2019

Tour operators say they are being starved at FSTV!

Small tour operators who work outside of the Fort Street Tourism Village in Belize City complained that they are being squeezed out by large operators. The operators claims that they have been experiencing some rough months because they are not selling their tours. According to the operators, it is because the system at the tourist village allows tour reps inside the terminals that sell to the visitors before they proceed outside where the small operators and guides are stationed. The problem is compounded by an alert message that the ships share with their passengers. The guides called out News Five to see the empty terminals at the village on the North Front Street today. Reporter Andrea Polanco spoke with two veteran operators about the situation on the ground. 

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Laurencio Bul is the owner of Indigenous and Rainforest Tours since 1995. For the past year he has been experiencing some tough times operating outside of the tourist village – he has had to downsize his operation and slash his tour rates.  But, he says, lately it is the worst it has ever been.

 

Laurencio Bul, Indigenous and Rainforest Tours

Laurencio Bul

“I would say like a year now I saw the difference in tourism right now. If you are asking me if I am making money here, ma’am, I will be honest with you I am big tour operator and I find out about three months ago I start to go home with sixty dollars weekly.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“This has never happened before?”

 

Laurencio Bul

“This never happened before. I saw myself reaching home and even my wife vex with me because there is no money. For me it is a hard time; really, really hard time. There are eighteen tour operators in this tourism zone. People are crying right now. If you can see, we have today three ships and I only managed to send four people out of that three ships today – four tourists and just city tour. I don’t know what is going on because prices are far down. When I say far down, people are now showing  ourselves to tourists like we are so desperate now we sell cheap because if you don’t sell cheap you will not go home with any money.”

And by midday this is what it looked like at the terminal one of the fort street tourism village in Belize City.  For those who work out here it is a pretty empty scene on day when three cruise ships with about ten to twelve thousand passengers called on Belize.  Operators and guides are still patiently waiting and hoping that some tourists would decide to get off the ship and purchase tours from them. But according to John Pollard, that’s not going to happen because big operators have access to the tourists before they make it outside to the small operators.

 

John Pollard, Tourism Zone Tour Operators & Workers Association 

John Pollard

“The people who are controlling the show on the inside, who bought over the village they have personnel doing sale all the way up to the door. You going to find out on the inside of the yard that the door has four or five sale reps that stop people from coming out to where we are on the outside as the small entrepreneurs.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“If this continue, what is really going to happen to the operators out here?”

 

John Pollard

“Oh – we all will have no choice but to work for the big guys and the way it is going right now that is the way it seems to me and to other guides. Us on the outside, today is a three ship day and if you can see that zone that is like a dead house mien. Three ships and this is like a dead house. People you are seeing on the sides, those people are tour guides, waiting to get a job and simply can’t get job because there are no jobs coming out.”

These operators say that another issue that has compounded the problem is this message that tourists received on Carnival Cruise Line that warns tourists about crime and safety issues in Belize City. According to Pollard, this also affects the point of sale for tours.

 

John Pollard

“It says – what I have here in fine print it says important – “The US Embassy has issued an alert for southside Belize City including St John’s Cathedral. While in port, please remain in the tourist area; return before sunset and refrain from wearing jewelries while on the south side. For us, this is another black eye also. So, what this article does, it let the tourists remain on the inside, so only the ship personnel who does sales can get the jobs.”

These operators say that the Belize Tourism Board has failed to address the issue. They also called out Tourism Minister Manuel as being out of touch with the small operators in the cruise industry. Now, they want the PM to hear their cries.

 

Laurencio Bul

“BTB comes to us – we invite them into our meetings and they promise us just like politicians. They do the same thing; promise us, promise us that next week they will do something and they don’t do anything. They don’t even frequent in this area to come and check. Mr Heredia, you need to do more work. Get out of your office and come out in the field. Come and sweat out here and see us out here, make your own reports and don’t believe what people say come and make your own reports. Come to the village.”

John Pollard

“I am calling on the higher authority which is the prime minister. Pease listen to our call and please assist us in what we are saying is happening out here. BTB is the body that regularizes this tour guide license; everyone inside is also tour guides working there. So, I am saying that the people on the inside must could do something fi we.”

 

Andrea Polanco reporting for News Five.

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