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Sep 18, 2013

NCL says it is getting support from the south for the mega tourism project on Harvest Caye

Hugh Darley

Six past presidents of the Belize Tourism Industry Association have jointly signed a letter opposing the Norwegian Cruise Line Project at Harvest Caye because it goes contrary to Sustainable Tourism Master Plan for the south. But today, after weeks of silence, representatives from NCL say they are picking up support where it matters. Hugh Darley, the Art Director for the NCL Tourism Project, told News Five today that over the weekend, they were in Independence Village where they held a public meeting with residents of the Stann Creek and Toledo Districts, as well as tourism stakeholders and area representatives. Darley says that not only was the consultation well attended, but participants expressed an overwhelming interest in the project.  The Norwegian Rep also spoke about the terms of the memorandum of understanding as it concerns rerouting NCL’s cruise ships to Harvest Caye.  Darley told News Five that he has met with President of the National Garifuna Council, Robert Mariano, in an effort to mend fences, following remarks involving the sacred Dugu ritual which raised the ire of the Garifuna community. 

 

Hugh Darley, Art Director, NCL Tourism Project

“We had an opportunity to participate with B.T.B. in a community stakeholders meeting in Independence. It allowed us to ask all the village and community leaders to actually attend the meetings so that we could describe the vision for Harvest Caye and what we were planning and the development for Norwegian Cruise Lines.”

 

Reporter

“How was the proposal or the idea in terms of the meeting received by residents in the south?”

 

Hugh Darley

“We think it was received very well. We had about an hour and a half of questions which we always enjoy because it allows us to really answer some specific questions. So we went through the presentation that we had done a week or two earlier at the news conference and allowed them to see the visual representation of the project; understand the intend and then asked questions about how the villages would get involved and what this future tourism would mean for the south.”

 

Reporter

“There have been several questions and concerns coming out of the initial signing of the memorandum of understanding; primarily with regards to the fact that it is widely thought or considered that Norwegian would take their cruise line to the south and residents of Belize City who are part of the tourism here would be directly affected. The prime minister has spoken that that will not necessarily be so based on the existing agreements for NCL to remain here. Can you offer some comment on that?”

 

Hugh Darley

“We can. You first have to understand the whole itinerary planning for the western itinerary. Currently Belize City is oversubscribed. There are more ships that want to call and more lines, but because of the historical preferences, some liens can’t grow their business into Belize. So Belize has done a great job through tourism and increasing the awareness and more people wanna travel to Belize. So Norwegian is looking for an opportunity to expand in the wouth which would allow them to bring four hundred thousand guests per year. Currently there is not enough parking spaces to accommodate NCL in Belize City so they are moving to the south so that they can bring four hundred thousand for the year. Currently only ninety-eight thousand of Norwegian passengers can only visit Belize for the year. So it is really to accommodate that. the idea is that will allow Norwegian to bring three hundred thousand incremental increase and because Belize City is oversubscribed, any openings will simply be filled by other lines with other guests that still want to come and visit Belize.”

 

Reporter

“There was also a slight bit of controversy with regards to the national Garifuna Council. I’m not sure if you are familiar with that—on the day of the signing of the memorandum of understanding, with regards to the Dugu ritual being described as one of the features on Harvest Caye as part of the tourism package.”

 

Hugh Darley

“Well what we asked was we asked the audience for a name for dance. What we were trying to convey is that we want to tell the authentic story of Belize. It is not us telling the story or Norwegian Cruise Lines telling the story. We want the Garifuna people, we want the Creole people, we want to Maya people to tell their story. So we are building them a stage. The idea is that whatever is authentic, we want it to be presented by authentic people. We don’t want to come and stage a Hollywood production of what Garifuna would mean. So what we asked the audience was a name for a dance or a name of a ceremony. Unfortunately we didn’t know that there were restricted and sacred parts of the dance or the ritual. But what we are going to look to do is reach out to the communities as we did last weekend. We have community meetings this fall, maybe ten or twelve different village community meetings, get the authentic story and make sure that we are telling the correct story.”

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