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Dec 1, 2009

San Pedro feeling the pinch of declining tourist arrivals

Story PictureIt’s the high season in the Tourism Industry but if you visited La Isla Bonita, the number one tourist destination, you wouldn’t know because the island is not experiencing the hustle and bustle of the season. It is officially known that the number of stay over visitors has decreased by five point two percent and that tourism expenditure fell by three point two percent to three hundred and ninety-two million dollars since the beginning of the year. Marion Ali headed to San Pedro and has a report.

Marion Ali, Reporting
Tourists, Sherry and Jeff Fink are among the dwindling number of visitors to Belize over the past few months. Like many other travellers, the couple is concerned about what the future has in store, but they have decided to put aside those fears at least for now.

Sherry Fink, Tourist
“Now in retirement I want to do a little bit of travelling and so the recession hasn’t stopped us, no.”

Jeff Fink, Tourist
“When I was telling a lot of my friends that we’re going on this trip and everything, they were saying how lucky and how we can afford it and everything and I just tell them well we saved for it and we have to treat ourselves to these little vacations otherwise it’s not working. Working isn’t worth it then.”

Low tourist arrivals have been crippling stakeholders in the industry, including the domestic air carriers…

Jenaro Nunez, Employee, Maya Island Air, San Pedro
“Coming in December we noticed last year was much better than right now and the booking is pretty slow right now.”

… And tour and taxi businesses.

Marcus Alamina, San Pedro dive Master
“They used to come in high numbers but they have declined. So we need to hit other countries and have other guests coming in from other countries even if we have to learn to speak their language; something but try getting them here.”

Pedro Chable, San Pedro Taxi Driver
“Hardly any people getting off the planes so it’s pretty critical. You can see that we’re very, very low in tourism this year”

Marion Ali
“How are you all coping with that?”

Pedro Chable
“Going back to the bank and doing bank loans and trying to see if finally this pick up so we can start paying our bills back again.”

Marion Ali
“While everyone agrees that it is the global recession that has the economy in such dire straits, there are many here at home who believe that there are things that can be done to ease the burden, and they’re calling on their local representatives to intervene.”

Alfonso Wiltshire, San Pedro Taxi Driver
“You can fly from Cancun to the US for a hundred and eighty-six dollars round trip. Why does airfare in Belize is so ridiculously expensive? Here in San Pedro, all of us taxi drivers here sometimes like yesterday—you’re not asking me my business—but yesterday how much I did yesterday? Twenty-four dollars. You think I can live with that?”

Kevin Reppuhn, San Pedro Entrepreneur
“Everyone feels that the airfares are high, higher than surrounding countries especially Mexico and Cancun obviously.”

But while it has been dismal, local bodies in San Pedro are trying to see how they can help.

Amy Leiva, BTB Administrator Mgr, San Pedro
“We support the private sector, we want them to aggressively target the tourists out there to come to Belize and we support that initiative. Our minister is also the minister for civil aviation and there is a board that is tackling that problem with the airfare.”

Marion Ali
“So that should come on-stream how soon?”

Amy Leiva

Marion Ali
“People have been calling on the authorities, local representatives, to pitch and try to do something; rescue the situation. Can that be done and if so what can be done?”

Severo Guerrero, Town Councillor, San Pedro
“Maybe it can be done. I don’t know. Maybe it needs some more studies to be done. A lot of people are saying—I’m a tour guide—a lot of people tell me the prices to come from the states, the airfare is pretty high. We can do more promotions on Belize but actually like on the airfare I think it’s more on Central Government.”

Until that happens, the industry will depend on tourists like Judy Jacobs to experience Belize.

Judy Jacobs, Tourist
“Been here ten days and looking forward to going home. If we can’t leave, we can’t come back.”

Reporting for News Five, Marion Ali.

The only business which showed a decent occupancy rate currently was Sun Breeze Suites, which also had bookings into Easter of 2010.

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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