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Dec 21, 2000

Contract signed for tourism village

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After a number of false starts a contract has finally been signed for the establishment of a tourism village at Belize City’s Fort Point. The agreement between the government, Tourism Board and a private group headed by businessman Mike Feinstein, was delayed by six months of wrangling over details, but construction is now slated to begin in January. Minister of Tourism Mark Espat told News 5 that the deal is a solid one for all concerned.

Mark Espat, Minister of Tourism

“The concept of a tourism village is one whereby there would be a focal point for passengers who disembark from the tenders that bring them ashore from the cruise ships to a specific point. In this case we have chosen the former customs department grounds at Fort Point in Belize City. The village as it is now conceived in the agreement, is not a partnership any more between the government and the developer, the Feinstein Group Belize Tourism Village Ltd. Rather, the agreement is now one where the investor has purchased the property from the government and has committed to investing some ten million Belize dollars to develop a main cruise terminal, a water taxi terminal and various auxiliary services including restaurants, bars, duty-free shopping, regular shopping, arts and crafts distribution, entertainment and so one.”

“We are pleased to say that the final agreement takes into account all of the concerns, the issues, that were brought up during our various consultations public and with the stakeholders. For example, the Cruise Taxi Association will be allowed to operate from the village, the small crafts artisans and vendors currently at the Memorial Park will be provided with concessionary rates and a special area in the village to sell their products. The BTB will maintain all of its regular tourists functions including fixing the rate of the tax, collecting the tax, negotiating with ships that call on Belize and overall, enforcing the National Cruise Policy, which is a collaborative product of private and public sector.”

Stewart Krohn

“How does that fit in to the country’s overall tourism policy?”

Mark Espat

“Clearly our priority is overnight tourism. It is more lucrative, it is less taxing on our resources, natural and otherwise in the long-term. But cruise tourism is an important source of revenue, there are hundred of Belizeans, taxi drivers, tour guides, tour operators, that earn a decent living from the cruise industry. And so what we’ve been attempting to do is to reach a balance where we direct a majority of our resources and our efforts to developing overnight tourism, which has grown this year by nine percent up until the end of October when we were affected by Hurricane Keith. But cruise tourism is also important and that has grown by sixty-four percent this year, fifty-seven thousand versus thirty-four thousand last year. We don’t want it to become our primary source of revenue, I think it has to complement the more sustainable overnight tourism, but it is an important source of revenue.

The company will pay government three million Belize dollars for the property at the old customs wharf totaling just over two acres. One point five million will be paid on January fifteenth with the remainder over the next five years. the BTB will also receive four hundred thousand dollars per year from a head tax on cruise tourists, based on a target of sixty thousand arrivals. BTB will also have a seat on the company’s board of directors. Phase one of the project is targeted for completion in October of 2001.

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