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Aug 8, 2006

Hopkins riding wave of eco-cultural tourism

Story PictureLast week we looked at a report commissioned by the B.T.B. that compared the economic impact of cruise tourism with that of more traditional overnight stays. The preliminary conclusion of that study was that overnight visitors made a far greater contribution to the Belizean economy. Tonight News Five’s Kendra Griffith takes a look at one community that is experiencing that reality first hand.

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
Tucked away some eight miles south of Dangriga is the laid-back fishing village of Hopkins. This small coastal community of approximately thirteen hundred people was established back in 1942 when residents of nearby Newtown were forced to relocate following a devastating hurricane.

?Every year a celebration is held to commemorate the establishment of the village … this year is Hopkin?s sixty-fifth anniversary.?

The Hopkins Day tradition began seven years ago and allows residents the opportunity to highlight their Garifuna culture. It also serves to attract Belizean and foreign tourists to the area, an activity which is growing in importance.

Charles Miller, Arts and Craft Vendor
?There?s a lot of people come–buy places and getting involved in the tourist business here. And I think they are going to make it. Hopkins is one of the popularest place you could ever find that people come.?

Christine, Tourist
?Yesterday we arrived here, and we finally knew today is Hopkins Day, so we feel really lucky. It?s nice, Belizeans, everyone is very friendly. There is great seashore and really good.?

Kendra Griffith
?What are you looking forward to doing while you?re here??

David, Tourist
?Relaxing, everything is about staying calm, going slow, trying food, meeting people, talking and swimming. We did some snorkelling. Just anything to have fun.?

The residents of Hopkins are responding to the village?s growing popularity, many by becoming tour guides …

Neal Arriola
?I used to do fishing and farming, diving for lobster and conch, planting citrus, but things go bad with them, so I leave and go to the marine part of life. The things that I do most of the time is taking people out snorkelling like today and driving the boat that we have for the divers.?

Selling crafts …

Charles Miller
?It?s very popular with the tourists to hang out with, and they come and buy a lot. So sometimes I have to go out and sell my products wholesale to the resorts them.?

And opening restaurants and guesthouses …

Jabbar Lambey has been attracting tourists to his Lebeha Drumming Centre for over a decade. He recently renovated and expanded to include low-priced cabanas as part of his business.

Jabbar Lambey, Owner, Labeha Drumming Centre and Cabanas
?We stared with one hut and now we try expand. We go?we were trying we go to business place … loan us some money that I could keep this tourism-ment business for our country. Getting more expanding, expand that we can keep our tourism-ment in Hopkins.?

The village uses its miles of beach, Garifuna culture, and unique proximity to a wide range of tourist destinations to its advantage.

Richard McCaulay, Dive Shop Mgr.
?Drumming is one of the biggest attractions. At King Kassava they drum, we would get Lebeha dancers and drumming here to entertain the guests, so drumming is one of the things that people like other than the tours. We do kayaking, we do hiking in the jungle, bird watching, SCUBA diving and also we snorkelling, which a lot of people like to do. Diving, we go out to Southwater Caye or we do Blue Hole, Glover?s and Turneffe. We go to the Maya Ruins in Cayo. We do cave tubing, we go to Cockscomb, Mayflower.?

And 2006 has been an exceptionally good year for Hopkins.

Neal Arriola
?This year we are very, very busy. Sometimes we take out three boats, up to four boats, sometimes even hiring other boats from different villages that we have around for us to take out the rest of the guests that we have here, so it?s really busy for us this year.?

A lot of people believe that Hopkins is the next big thing … and construction has expanded both north and south towards Sittee River as developers try to capitalise on the influx.

For many of the residents, more resorts and hotels mean more tourists, which translate to more jobs.

Neal Arriola
?Well for us here it is really good. Most of us are working with the tourist, some people doing fishing from the village, we have a couple of them, and most of the people that is working here for the resort is from the village nearby, Hopkins Village too.?

George Ramirez
?We have some developers here north and south of Hopkins. They hire Belizeans, so we have a lot of Hopkinites employed at those resorts.?

The boom has residents feeling optimistic.

Richard McCaulay
?Hopkins is growing and it?s growing pretty fast. I believe that in the next three years, three to five years will be one of the destinations tourists would like to come.?

And they are hoping that next tourist will be you.

George Ramirez
?Hopkins is beautiful and attractive and it welcomes anybody.?

Kendra Griffith reporting for News Five.

Hamanasi, like many other resorts in the area, offers special Belizean rates, especially during the summer season.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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