By Aaron Humes: Yesterday evening there was a meeting between executives of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) and various stakeholders of the cruise tourism industry in Belize, at the Old Belize Center.
A spokesperson for the Belize Tourism Board told us yesterday evening that it was closed to the press – an insiders’ only event to discuss best practices in an industry that has grown leaps and bounds in recent years. And there was a serious clash or two between the FCCA and cruise line executives and tour operators, with Government representatives caught in the middle.
In opening the meeting, Minister of Tourism Manuel Heredia, Jr., noting that some smaller tour operators feel that their bigger counterparts are taking more of the pie, shrugged and said, “That’s life.” We are told that it was not well received by the attendees.
Michelle Page, FCCA president, noted that cruise ship tourists want an original, appealing and hassle-free existence. Belize ranks just 23rd of 35 destinations for passenger satisfaction. While they expressed interest in coming back, Page said, passengers cite a poor “first impression” with the tendering service to the mainland and interaction with operators among their pet peeves. She said that there is room for more creativity and growth of the product.
But the operators and tourism associates have concerns of their own. One operator suggested that modern tourists are not willing to spend as much and treat Belize like a superstore – one stop to shop and leave. That attitude has to change, he said.
Operators belonging to the Federation of Cruise Tourism Associations of Belize (FECTAB) made their presence known, bringing up their allegations of favouritism to foreign operators and accusing the FCCA of “lecturing” them – which prompted Page to threaten to walk out of the meeting.
Of course, two representatives of the largest foreign operators working in Belize were present and commended FCCA for its work. Also brought up was the necessity for a cruise port in Belize City – but it seems that the FCCA is ambivalent in its support. It suggested that Belizeans will have to determine what is most important.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow has promised such a port and is in negotiations with the owners of the Port of Belize Limited, among others, to build one in the Port Loyola area. The Feinstein Group has shelved its proposed port at Stake Bank due to a refusal by Government to grant exclusivity for usage.
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