BELIZE CITY, Tues. Aug. 11, 2015–The Belize Tourism Board (BTB) called a press conference this afternoon at their Regent Street headquarters in response to a press release issued yesterday, Monday, by the community activist group Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action (COLA).
COLA’s press release highlighted that Carnival Cruise Line had cancelled 14 of its cruise ship calls to Belize, which will result in an estimated $2.5 million in lost revenue for the cruise tourism industry.
Citing an e-mail sent to BTB from Carnival officials, the COLA release says Carnival is “unhappy and dissatisfied with their experience in Belize,” and that it considered the tendering process unfavorable.
COLA’s press release added, “In his New Year’s message, P.M. Barrow had assured Belizeans that his administration, this year, will move forward with a cruise port – a promise welcomed by many Belizeans including COLA….COLA once again calls on the government to move forward with the approval for a port facility.”
BTB’s Valdemar Andrade, Director, Destination Planning and Cruise, flatly denied the main assertion of the COLA press release.
Andrade said, “I just want to clarify some misinterpretations because, yes, let me first say that Carnival did redeploy two ships which affected our call schedule by 14 calls for 2016. But this is a normal part of our scheduling process.”
Andrade explained that the 14 cancellations by Carnival are basically acts of housecleaning on the part of the cruise line.
“So as they cleaned that up, they sent us which ships they want to remove, which ships they are redeploying, which ships they are deploying to Belize, because they might be moving ships from other destinations to here, which happens very often. In fact every year this happens. So our call schedule is never 100% complete at this point in time. Closer to December, we will have a more definite schedule, but throughout the year there are changes depending on what is happening in other destinations or in the route or whether there are many reasons why people would redeploy and move ships around,” Andrade said.
In the case of the 14 calls from its Belize cruise that Carnival cancelled, Andrade explained that only two ships, which would have made a total of 14 calls to Belize, were affected.
“As far as my conversation with Carnival specifically, they have never tied any issues of tendering to the cruise dissatisfaction or satisfaction. What they have commented is that they would like to get the tenders in closer or the shipping closer, so that the tender time is less,” Andrade said. “That is as far as the conversations that we have had.”
In terms of the cruise line’s concern of getting the tenders closer to the ship in order to cut down on tendering time, Andrade said BTB has discussed this matter with the Belize Port Authority.
Andrade also said that there are other cruise lines which have increased the number of stops that they make to Belize. He said that the cruise ships are getting bigger, and if two ships are removed that loss could easily be offset with other cruise companies.
“If you remove two ships and give me back a big ship or two big ships, then my net benefit is greater at the end of the day. So, from the desk that I sit, I don’t see any issues with us filling the gap at this point in time, and of course if there is any issue we would definitely signal it to the industry that there will be a significant drop in calls or packs, depending on what we feel would affect us greater,” Andrade pointed out.
In respect to the $2.5 million in lost revenue that COLA said the industry would suffer as a consequence of the 14 calls that have been cancelled, Andrade said the figure is not accurate.
He said, “I would say it’s inaccurate because I can’t tell you what we stand to lose until I have a final call schedule. I can’t tell you that we stand to lose at any point in time, because it is a regular process and it’s not only Carnival. All the port agents send in their list and say, ‘well we want to change this or we want to remove this or we want to add this’.”
In 2013, when Carnival cancelled 10 stops to Belize, the ships were rerouted to Mexico, and prior to that, in the 2011 season, Carnival had cancelled stops to Belize over its concern about the size of tenders that were being used to ferry cruise passengers from its cruise ships.
Belize’s port can handle up to four cruise ships per day in the tourism high season.