Tour Operator oversaturation discussed at monthly San Pedro Tour Operators Association meeting

Friday, February 14th, 2020

The San Pedro Tour Operators Association (SPTOA) held its general meeting on Tuesday, February 11th inside the Hol Chan Marine Reserve conference room to address the issue of tour operator oversaturation on the island. The discussion included recommendations on how the organization can work hand in hand with the local authorities when granting trade licenses to new tour operators and what can be the best mechanism to mitigate the saturation that is beginning to affect stakeholders.
Prior to the main discussion, the National President of the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) Melanie Paz spoke to the gathering about their work. Paz outlined BTIA’s accessibility in the tourism sector and how they can assist tour operators whenever they face challenges. Local scientist and environmentalist Valentine Rosado also gave a presentation on coral restoration. He briefly spoke about the coral nurseries that are currently being looked after in front of the island. Rosado said that the project is proving to be fruitful and emphasized the importance of coral rehabilitation. Rosado encouraged the stakeholders to support the project and other projects that are planned through the SPTOA.
Following the presentations, SPTOA Chairman, Everette Anderson opened the floor for the main discussion of the evening. Vice-Chairman Roberto Canul brought up the issue of over-saturation. “It’s an issue of concern that has been raised by several of our members, and we need to look at it closely,” said Canul. He made it clear that they are not against development and anyone becoming a tour operator; however, it needs to be done via the right procedures.
Some of the suggestions included the categorization of services provided by tour operators. An example put forward suggested that an establishment engaged in snorkelling tours should not offer additional services such as fishing tours unless they have been vetted. The concern is that some tour operators are doing a whole range of tours (snorkelling, diving, fishing, and inland tours) and some of them do not have qualified personnel for each of these different activities.
The association discussed the idea of making it mandatory that their input in the vetting of tour operators trade licenses be taken into consideration by The San Pedro Town Council (SPTC). Canul explained that if they have a say in who is getting trade licenses to open a tour shop, they need to follow the proper procedures and have the necessary safety and professional requirements in place to operate. Another option mentioned was for the SPTC to stop issuing tour operator trade licenses for at least a year and work on improving the current situation.
The next step for the association is to lobby with the relevant authorities in power. They plan to engage the Belize Tourism Board, Belize Port Authority, the Area Representative Honourable Manuel Heredia Jr., and the SPTC. The association is optimistic to get the support from these entities after they further discuss their proposals with them.
The meeting ended with the current Chairman announcing the transition of his position. Canul becomes the acting Chairperson based on the recommendation from the outgoing chairperson (Everette Anderson).
Everette has been the Chairperson since 2017. At the 2019 Annual General Meeting, he accepted re-election to the position on the condition that he would help transition leadership to a new Chairperson. In the past months, he has recognized that the vice-chair has demonstrated quality leadership and is in a good position to take over the Chairmanship of the association.
The meeting was adjourned, and a date for a new gathering was not announced.


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