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Jan 11, 2011

Florida Caribbean Cruise Association inspects Tourism Village

The Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) is a powerful lobby of fourteen cruise lines that operate in the Latin America and the Caribbean. Their combined power can make or break the multi-million dollar industry in Belize. Their mission is to advance the development of cruise ship tourism which means that improved standards at destinations along with standard ports and adequate security are all part of the plan to market and increase the seasonal number of cruise passengers. Three of FCCA’s executives were on an overnight stay to visit the Fort Street Tourism Village which has been going through it owns growing pains because of recent zoning laws. The executives met with the Belize Tourism Board and after a walk through, the FCCA gave the village its report card. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

It is peak season for cruise tourism in the Jewel as thousands of foreigners are vacationing away from the harsh winters of their home countries.  As they wandered through the many stalls within the Fort Street Tourism Village a handful of executives, themselves tourists if only for a day, were also making their rounds inside the marketplace.  While others indulged in shopping and inland travel this delegation of three, hosted by high level tourism officials, represented the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association.  Together they were here on an official visit.  Their purpose was to scrutinize the operations on the ground, at the end of which they gave an overall product assessment.

Michelle Paige, President, Florida Caribbean Cruise Association

Michelle Paige

“Everything that we have seen has been a transformation because Belize has concentrated on what they feel is important to the satisfaction of your tourists, our passengers.  So right now, when a passenger gets off a vessel they feel a comfort feeling, a feeling of welcome and thats very important because if the passengers feel threatened the chances are that they will get back onto the ship and not experience Belize and not be able to leave any of the economic impact that we know the Belizeans are looking forward to when the passengers arrive.”

Hearing it from Michelle Paige, president of FCCA, one gets the impression that the recently launched project known as the Fort George Tourism Zone was a seamless transition for many venders who do business here.  Instead, when it first came into effect they were up in arms and complained about being sidelined from the competition.

Yoni Rosado

Yoni Rosado, Proprietor, (File: December 10th, 2010)

“What we have to understand is that the zoning have been mapped, have been designed not by us. I will ask a question to the vendor did BTB contact you before the zoning? I will ask a question to the hair braiders did BTB contact you for your honest opinion for the zoning? And that is the question that I put to the people of Belize, to the city and to all the people involved in cruise tourism. Belize Tourism Board has met with us one, I believe two times, about the zoning but it’s not for asking us anything. It’s to tell us what’s going to happen.”

Even though there was much kicking and screaming the carrying out of BTB’s Sustainable Tourism Program was certain.  After a few weeks it has received positive reviews from cruise line executives.

Gordon Buck, Representative, Carnival Cruise Line

Gordon Buck

“It’s been six months since my last visit to Belize and I can’t explain to you, there’s not words enough how favorably impressed I have been today with the enhancements done in the tourism zone.  It is like night and day.  It’s wonderful!  It’s all strides in the right direction.  I think if everyone keeps working with the concerted effort to keep moving in that direction it’s going to be a wonderful experience for everybody involved.”

That collective effort, says Paige, should eventually see an increase in local business and less vendors bargaining with tourists.

Michelle Paige

“Basically, I think that something we’ve spoken to the Director of Tourism about its looking at having even a more uniformed dispatch so passengers know exactly whats available but theyre the dictators of what they do.  That there is nobody approaching them that they are the ones that are going to decide what they are going to do.  More tourists in Belize, to be able to expedite the passengers whether they want to walk, whether they want to go on a taxi, whether they want to go on a tour bus that theyre going to increase the pie, make the pie bigger so there is a piece of pie for everybody.”

Those changes along with the organization of a new tourism zone, according to Federico Denton, were exactly what visitors wanted.

Federico Denton, Representative, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

Federico Denton

“Everything that the government has done to improve the quality of service on the product is really what our guests want and so I encourage you to continue working with the government, supporting the government.  The government is involved in the community and we strongly believe that the potential of economic development of the cruise industry and we really want the community to benefit from that economic benefit.  So we encourage you to continue supporting the government in their efforts really to improve the product for our cruise guests.”

And while optimizing the function of the tourism zone was no overnight feat it is safe to conclude that it has brought order to an otherwise chaotic experience on cruise ship day. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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3 Responses for “Florida Caribbean Cruise Association inspects Tourism Village”

  1. BZNinCALI says:

    Is anyone other than the shop owners making money? The tourists don’t want to feel threatened but are they being made aware of the other services that are available, like those of the independent hair braiders?

  2. ap says:

    What a disgusting industry. Tell FCCA to get out of Belize. Tell cruise ships to leave! Tell Belizeans in the business to fine something more honorable to do for a living! Bunch of SELL-OUTS!

  3. Earl Grey says:

    WE need TO GET MORE INTO AGRICULTURE AND FOOD PRODUCTION…………We have land that could produce almost anything. GROW FOOD = MAKE MONEY………Grow more food.

    let TOURISM be the GRAVY……

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