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Jun 26, 2007

Initiative seeks to mitigate cruise tourism damage

Story PictureEver since cruise tourism became a big business in Belize it has been viewed by environmentalists with sentiments ranging from disdain to horror. And while those feelings may be justified, a new initiative seeks to go beyond the rhetoric to ask the right questions … and hopefully find answers.

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
In 2006, approximately six hundred and fifty thousand cruise ship passengers visited Belize. But while their stay may have been for only a few short hours, its impact on the country’s natural heritage was significant. So how do we create the right balance between economic benefits and protection of the environment? It’s a question key tourism stakeholders will answer over the next few months as they seek to formulate an action plan for two pilot projects for 2008.

Valerie Woods, Bz. Project Consultant, Conservation Intl.
“Over the next two, three months we should be meeting individually as well as groups with tour operators, taxi drivers, the City Council, government hoping to identify from their perspective, have them tell us what the issues are.”

Director of Tourism Tracy Taegar-Panton says while she is not aware of any scientific data that indicates what level of damage, if any, has been caused, she says the project will help to improve the management of especially sensitive marine sites that are popular among cruise ship passengers.

Tracy Taegar-Panton, Director of Tourism
“By the sheer numbers of people we know that there is an impact and sustainable use of our resources is very important to the overall tourism product. It is our competitive advantage as a country and so it is important that we do whatever we can to safeguard those resources.”

The project is a joint effort by the Belize Tourism Board, Conservation International, with support from the Cruise Lines International Association and the Oak Foundation. According to C.I.’s project consultant, Valerie Woods, the exercise will be similar to the recently conducted study in Belize where participating hotels made operational changes to minimise impacts on the environment.

Valerie Woods
“It’s the same concept on the cruise side. So we’re talking not about reports that will be shelved, but actions that will be executed and monitored just as it was done on the hotel side.”

“Belize stands to benefit because the more we employ and engage in best practices the much longer these resources will be available in a healthy situation.”

The project is considered the first substantial attempt to address the negative impacts of cruise tourism and will be implemented over a twelve month period next year.


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