The Federation of Cruise Tourism Associations of Belize (FECTAB) is up in arms with the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) and the Government again and this time it’s about the crisis tour guides are experiencing. Today, the Association held a press conference where they highlighted the issue of relief funds being mishandled by the BTB and the Government. According to the Vice President of the Association, Yhony Rosado, tour guides and other workers in the tourism sector have already started to experience the economic impacts of COVID-19. They believe that the relief measures that will be implemented by the government to aid those in the sector will not trickle down to them. They are skeptical that the funds will be mishandled and they will not receive their entire cut.
Yhony Rosado, Vice President, FECTAB: “I got an email yesterday around 11:3 AM from BTB to fill out this form and the first thing that captured my attention was that “If you don’t have this document you’re not qualified.” BTB have employees, have their own police task force, the BTB has its own system for the cruise tourism and they don’t know who don’t have this paper. I just went through for my tour operator license and so the BTB has all the records of all the tour guides and everyone who is working the cruise tourism. We’re asking the government not to make the mistake and put the money in the wrong hands because we have people that have worked hard for the past twenty years and we need. If you don’t want to believe us that we need cash well give us rice, give us beans, give us water, wait until like the first virus comes then have the medication; I’m not even asking this government for medication right now, right now we need the vital things to survive because if we don’t get those things we’ll have to come out of our house and look where we could hustle and what we will hustle is the virus and we get the virus we bring it home then the elder goes to the hospital then it becomes a government problem bigger. So if the government could do the right thing we’re going to ask the government to please help the cruise tourism industry as quick as possible. A lot of tour guides just spent over a thousand dollars to get the course finished and another five hundred for another course to get their license and boom there is no job.”
The President of the association, Tom Greenwood, went on to highlight other issues in the tourism sector. These include cruise ship operations and the implementation of a quota for cruise lines.
Tom Greenwood, President, FECTAB: “We have another hurdle to meet. We’ve got to stop the cruise lines from selling the majority of their tours to one tour operator, that has to stop, that doesn’t happen in any of the other destinations in the Western Hemisphere. Go to Aruba, ships can’t sell on board, they dock because Aruba is the top of the mountain; they dock, people come ashore and they buy freely. The ships know that, where do they make their money? From the people. Also Aruba charges almost nothing to the cruise line so that they make their money there are so many ways to do it and one of the things that we have to ensure is that we tell the cruise lines that they are going to have to deal with a quota system; they can only take so many off the cruise ship for whoever operates with them, the rest must come ashore and buy ashore. Once we do that and we stop seeing the gaunt eyes and stop seeing people like brother Bol who comes all the way from San Estevan.”