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Sep 5, 2019

Tourism sector In Orange Walk takes a hit

The dangerous level of contamination of the New River is taking a toll in many sectors.  Students from La Inmaculada School have had to be sent home because of the gases that have been creating a stench at the river.  Business owners along the New River are feeling the pinch in their pockets. The New River is a big attraction in the Orange Walk District but its contamination has seriously affected tourism activities. Business has come to a screeching halt for restaurants, hotels and tour operators. With no clear plan on how and when the river will be re-vitalized, the future of tourism related businesses is uncertain. Dalila Ical reports.


Dalila Ical, Reporting

Traditionally, it is low season at this time of the year for the tourism sector in Orange Walk, but business today is bad.


Hotels, restaurants, and tour operators have been losing money since the health of the New River begun slowly deteriorated over the course of many weeks.


Raul Pelayo, who preferred to comment off camera, owns Lamanai Riverside Retreat. He has been in business for about twenty-five years in the heart of Orange Walk Town, at the bank of the River. Here he offers rooms and runs a restaurant. Since May, business here has been very slow.

Raul Pelayo, Proprietor, Lamanai Riverside Retreat

“We try to fight it out but we do have tourists that have come in and they are not able to buy food from the restaurant because i mean how can you eat when you are smelling that pungent scent that comes out of the river. It is difficult for them. Difficult for me. This morning I had all my rooms cancelled that i was supposed be getting some guests. I was to get some guests yesterday, they cancelled out again and I can’t blame them. I have five rooms and if i get five rooms full, That’s it for me but some days i could have three or four, some days all full but right now we are talking zero. Total zero. If three was good for me totally zero.”



“For many weeks now?”


Raul Pelayo

“Oh yes. For a month and a half since the water started like this.”


Orlando de la Fuente runs two hotels and a restaurant all nestled along the river.


Orlando De la Fuente, Proprietor Maracas Bar & Grill/El Gran Mestizo Riverside Cabins

“The tours that we do, the area of the River between here, Maracas and the Toll Bridge has been one of the most abundant in wild life and birds and crocs because it is hardly travelled. We are the only tour operator that departs to Lamanai from Orange Walk but we have had to change our departure site to Toll Bridge because this isn’t a sight that we want our guests to see or smell.”


Two of businesses, El Gran Mestizo Riverside Cabins and Maracas Bar and Grill have been hit the hardest.


Orlando De la Fuente

Orlando De la Fuente

“And we have had cancelations here at Maracas for reservations. Business has fallen. We started like at 25 percent and then during the month of august it went down to like fifty percent. The last month our business fell by about sixty percent and we have a staff of fourteen and everybody is taking a cut in their hours so that i don’t have to lay off anybody but the truth is, if it continues like this i will have to lay off some people because this is  just not sustainable.”


Like De la Fuente, the situation has forced Raul Pelayo to make tough decisions.


Raul Pelayo 

“It is difficult when you have to go into your pocket and pay the salaries so i didn’t fire them but i laid them off for two days and i gave them fifty percent pay”



“That’s how bad it has been?”


Raul Pelayo 

“That’s how it is. I don’t want to lose them. Like i said they are good workers. They really are fine people.”


And they are not the only ones feeling the strain. A string of businesses are visible along the highway starting from the Toll Bridge. The future of these businesses remains uncertain, especially since there is no way of saying when or even if the River will clear up.


Raul Pelayo 

 “Before the 25 years I was  her like ten years before that so that would be like 35 years and of course I have never seen the river so bad as it is today. I have never seen it in my 35 years of being here”

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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