Whilst Belize was in a festive mode for the September celebrations, the government decided to finally sign the contract for the Stake Bank tourism project, which will see the construction of a berthing facility on the Stake Bank Caye located five miles east of Belize City.
Usually when big deals like these are signed during this time of year, it’s because these projects contain major flaws that need to be hidden. This particular project has been on the table for approval for several years but has never made the light of the day until now.
Why? Because they have decided to remove the most important part of the project — the five-mile causeway which will totally eliminate the tendering process. The cruise ship has always had major issues with smaller boats bringing in their guests from the ship to shore and the authorities are fully aware of this.
Hence, N.C.L. decided to buy Harvest Caye. We all have seen the result of Harvest Caye and how beneficial it has become for Belizean in southern Belize. Without the causeway as part of the Stake Bank project, cruise tourism in this part of the country will get worse, especially for stakeholders within the Fort Street Tourism Zone in Belize City.
It appears that the government cannot do away with the tendering boats owned by the shipping agents here in Belize. Even though these shipping agents already have the contract to bring these cruise ships into the waters of the country, they now feel like they also are entitled to a piece of the tourism pie.
The shipping agents’ responsibilities are to ensure that ships arrive safely in our harbors. Their involvement thereafter with the guests should be limited, especially in the cruise tourism sector. Ever since the shipping agents have become intimately involved with the cruise ships through the tender process, business has taken a downward spiral for entrepreneurs and other stakeholders within the tourism zone to the point where an entire cruise line decide to move south.
How attractive and competitive will Belize be as a destination within the western Caribbean if we insist on using tender boats, a condition that the cruise line does not approve of? Are we being naive to think that cruise ships have to come to Belize?
This Stake Bank tourism project without the causeway is a major step backward. Already we cannot cater to the additional ships that are now being diverted into this region due to lack of a proper berthing facility.
Harvest Caye has been a disaster; is this the best we can do for tourism in Belize?