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Jun 25, 2019

Will Double Murder on La Isla Bonita Negatively Impact Tourism Industry?

The shocking murders of a visiting U.S. doctor while on a fishing trip with a San Pedro tour guide is grabbing attention in the international press. The Doctor Gary Swank is highly respected and his community and family are reeling from his senseless murder. Already, the U.S. Embassy has issued an advisory on travel to Belize because of the murder. The island is one of Belize’s top tourism destination and such violent incidents are expected to affect the industry that has otherwise been recording record number of visitors. News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports.


Hipolito Novelo Reporting

The double murder of fifty- three year tour guide and operator Mario Graniel and that of his client, American doctor Gary Swank is expected to have serious negative impact on San Pedro’s tourism industry. Graniel was one of the first persons to introduce fly fishing to the country, particularly to San Pedro Town. He was known for his contribution to the fishing industry and to tourism on the island.  A brief statement from the Belize Tourism Board doesn’t speak to that but rather states that the Board continues to work closely with the Belize Police Department to support the investigation as appropriate. The release says that “crime against tourists has been and remains very rare.” And it is that crime against a tourist that can have serious implications. Chairman of the National Tour Guide Committee Philip Leslie spoke to News Five.


Philip Leslie

Philip Leslie, Chairman, National Tour Guide Committee

“Mr. Mario Graniel, we all know him as Mario, was one of the first fly fisherman in his era. He is a second generation fisherman, his dad mainly doing reef fishing but he being one of the innovators to bring in customers out here to do fly fishing.”


Graniel was with fifty three year old Doctor Gary Swank, fishing a mile west of the town when they were ambushed and murdered. Dr. Swank was one of Graniel’s fishing clients.”


Philip Leslie

“The Fly fishing industry has boomed in this whole country especially when talking about down south, all the way up north with the tarpon, bonefish and permit. We heard the very sad news and I recall both Mario and I also going in to instructor training together in Mexico to obtain out license. So he has been a very instrumental guide of the second generation type for both scuba diving and fly fishing. He concentrated, after the diving more, into the fly fishing era.”


With the recent double murder on the island, Leslie expects that the tourism industry will face serious adverse challenges.


Philip Leslie

“We are hoping that this doesn’t become as dark as it looks because an innocent, his life was taken away. I don’t see the reason. I don’t want to get into it because I am not the investigator but as a dear friend, we lost somebody big in this industry. To me the worse part as being ahead in the tourism industry is the life of the a tourist, someone who came here to spend money of which we a hundred and twenty thousand Belizeans benefit from.”


According to Leslie, tour guides have expressed concerns for their safety and the safety of their customers while at sea.


Philip Leslie

“Certain of our tours have been cancelled and I have gone to see the customers and they are concerned for their safety. We have to ensure that we take all leaders of this industry and we sit and minimize this effect because if it is only a few days ago and the customers that are here are telling you that imagine of the ones that want to come. So we have to sit together and try to minimize this effect. This is a hard blow.”


Hipolito Novelo

“Do you expect more difficult impacts because of this incident and other murders across the country?”


Philip Leslie

“I do expect that but I am certain as we have done in the past, we get all heads of this industry together and we do whatever it takes to ensure that this negative doesn’t hurt us.”


Commissioner of Police Chester Williams is scheduled to meet with tourism stakeholders on the island on Wednesday. Hipolito Novelo, News Five.

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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