Stakeholders in the tourism industry are already feeling the pressure as the Novel Coronavirus continues to spread. Worldwide, travel bans, and cruise ships cancellations are affecting the economy of many countries. Reporter Courtney Menzies visited the Tourist Village in Belize City to find out how our local tour guides are faring in the wake of the pandemic.
Courtney Menzies, Love FM News: The Novel Coronavirus or COVID-19 has yet to reach Belize but that does not mean it is not already affecting Belizeans; one of our largest industries, tourism, is at risk. As the virus spreads cruise ship arrivals into the country will see a decline. As it is on a cruise ship day like today the tourist village was practically empty. For persons who rely heavily on cruise ship arrivals to put food on the table this may be worrisome. Tour operator Laurencio Bol and a vendor known as ‘New York’ told us how surprised they were at the lack of tourists coming off the ships.
Lawrencio Bol, Tour Operator: “Right now we had two ships cancel today, there should be four ships today but with the two ships that arrived today still right now I just sent out two jobs which it could be much better than that if there was nothing about virus. I have a piece of land in Punta Gorda because I originally came from there so I have a customary land that my father left me and I am now preparing to go work on my land. I am preparing now to do farming.”
New York, Vendor: “I was very surprised today to see the people they are not here. Usually I come eight o’clock in the morning but this morning I came after nine and there was nobody here I was very surprised to know that two Carnival ships that nobody is around. It was frightening for me as a store manager because this is how I make my money. I think the Corona has a big impact with the people not coming off today because there is nobody here, you can show the camera there is nobody here today and that’s very frightening for us. Well if this continues like this our number one industry is going to be broken because then if right now we can’t see anybody and it’s not impacting as yet what do you think if we start to hear that different cases in Belize with this corona epidemic. I don’t think it will last.
Courtney Menzies, Love FM News: Many tourists tend to book city or sea tours from on board the cruise ships and thus they don’t necessarily have to exit the tourist village. Companies like Chukka and Calypso Tours tend to facilitate these. As explained by tour guide Wayne Humes this allows them to get the bulk of the tourists that arrive via the cruise ships thus tour operators and tour guides receive very limited jobs. That’s why for Humes the lack of cruise ship arrivals are not affecting him. He stated that even before COVID-19 was an issue he was struggling as a tour guide.
Wayne Humes, Tour Guide: “The corona hasn’t really entered Belize as yet so the cruise ships are still coming but I think it’s something that is like before now whereby you would find as a tour guide we come out here everyday, try to solicit a job and there are obstacles, ways that actually prevent us from acquiring that job. Well my plan B as ever since I started in tourism before I became a tour guide I was a taxi driver, I’m still a taxi driver but I do tours whenever the cruise ship comes in so that is my fall back as a regular taxi.”