Headline — 10 October 2018 — by Rowland A. Parks
Local tour operators resist move to relocate to Marion Jones Sports Complex

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Oct. 8, 2018– A move by the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) and the Belize City Council to relocate small, local tour operators from the area around the tourism village has been met with resistance from FECTAB, which called a press conference on Friday to rail against the proposed move to relocate their business to the Marion Jones Sports Complex.

The FECTAB press conference was attended by Belize City Deputy Mayor Oscar Arnold, who said at the press conference that more consultations are needed before the relocation plans go forward.

Today, the BTB issued a press release that it captioned: “The restructuring of Fort George Tourism Zone aims to improve guest experience.”

The BTB said that the restructuring is to enhance the guest experience of cruise tourists and to ease the traffic flow.

David Almendarez, a FECTAB member, said on Friday, “They were to do a trial run, they say, due to congestion, due to whatever information that they feel necessary. They’re going to do a trial run to move us from Terminal 1, and put us at the Marion Jones Sporting Complex, something like that. It’s not the first; it’s not the second; it’s not the third time the Belize Tourism Board has tried to get rid of the ordinary poor man’s bread and butter.”

FECTAB’s Yhony Rosado remarked, “Thank you to the City Council for holding off on their press conference with BTB. Let’s remind the City Council that BTB wanted to move us before they won the elections, and somehow, they showed them paper works that we’re ready to move. And we’re here today to tell this country, to tell this government, and to tell everyone that have a little bit of influence, not to move us from there. We’re barely making anything, and if they move us from there, we will not make anything.”

John Pollard, the owner of Big John Tours, said, “The time has come for us to stand up, gentlemen. We need to stand up. Even if it is being arrested, or anything else in that form, we need to be together.”

Another FECTAB member, the outspoken Tom Greenwood declared: “Do not bend to the foreign power. They don’t care. The only thing that they care about is that dollar that they can put into their pockets. We welcome investments, but not to crap on our heads. That doesn’t happen. And I say, we shall not be moved. I’m going to be right out there, and if all of us have to lay down on the ground, the way you see it done in the States, lay down on the ground. The way a minister of politics right now is, Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber, he laid down on the grounds of UB. They removed him by hand and foot. Well, I weigh 240 pounds; let them move me. We got to stand at some stage. I want to see them move Big John.”

Belize City Deputy Mayor, Oscar Arnold came under attack as FECTAB demanded answers from him.

“From what we saw and the documents from the consultations, it appeared that there was enough buy-in from stakeholders that this thing should be done. We started to hear some clamor back and forth. I think when Mayor walked out there and spoke to some of you guys out at terminal one, some people were with it and some people were against it. And so we went back and the councilor in charge of zoning and planning also had some consultations. The problem with those consultations was it wasn’t like this; we didn’t have some of the stakeholders because of what had happened historically between yourselves and BTB. People either weren’t interested in hearing what the BTB was saying or was just fed up and it is always a fight. My message to you here today is that when that condition was made or the decision was made for the trial run to be done, it was on the basis that small tour operators, Belizean-owned businesses and Belizean tour operators would not be affected to the point where they will lose money,” said Arnold.

Arnold added, “What I am hearing here is that that is a certainty — not a probably, but a certainty. The message from the Mayor to BTB at the time was if anytime during that trial run there is any compromise that has to be made where money will be lost or business will be lost, then the city would not be involved in that. Where the move is concerned, I understand also and I was given an update yesterday that the National Sports Council has an issue because for whatever reason, BTB did not consult with them as to the parking arrangement. As far as where this trial run will be, the Mayor has shelved it until further consultations, until meaningful consultations will be done.”

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Deshawn Swasey

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