San Pedro Tour Operators meet to discuss issues affecting the island’s tourism industry

Friday, March 31st, 2023

The tourism industry is considered the pillar of the economy in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. As the island continues to expand, so does the need for essential services from the governing authorities. With this in mind, the San Pedro Tour Operators Association (SPTOA) met on Thursday, March 30th, to discuss various issues affecting their businesses.
SPTOA Chairman Roberto Canul led the meeting at Hurricanes Ceviche Bar in the Boca del Rio area. The discussions started shortly after 4PM, with Canul welcoming everyone to the gathering. The conversations focused on sharing concerns threatening the daily routine of tour operators. The idea is to get those concerns together and bring them to the attention of the Belize Tourism Board (BTB). The plan is to meet with BTB’s legal team and address the loopholes affecting the system and ensure fairness across the board.
Some of these concerns deal with enforcing regulations governing tour operators. Canul pointed out that more personnel from BTB and even the Belize Port Authority should be along the Ambergris Caye coast monitoring the area for unqualified tour providers. Some members in the meeting expressed their frustration that one of the only areas monitored is the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, leaving other areas exposed to irregular activities. They noted that the little monitoring ceases after certain hours, and the marine protected area waters become further exposed to activities such as illegal fishing and irregular tour services. Another complaint was the need to properly inspect that every entity offering tours is a genuine business and has the proper documentation for selling tours. Likewise, they encouraged visitors to only book excursions (inland, snorkel, diving, fishing trips) from authorized tour operators. The apparent lack of enforcement was the main problem everyone brought up, and they agreed that nothing would fall into place without this mechanism.
Everyone agreed with Canul that reopening the BTB office in San Pedro is very important. San Pedro continues without such an office to provide BTB services and information. The former BTB office was located at the SanCas Plaza in downtown San Pedro but closed at the end of June 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. BTB’s primary source of income is tourism dollars, including the 9% hotel tax. The office’s closure was understandable during the pandemic; however, tourism has returned to Belize, and it is unknown when this vital office will reopen in San Pedro.
These were some of the main issues discussed, and now the association looks forward to meeting with the BTB. They discussed having each tour operator write a letter that would be accompanied by a cover letter from the association. According to Chairman Canul, all the members want is for the respective authorities (BTB) to engage in a dialogue with the SPTOA and help them address the issues affecting San Pedro tour operators. They believe they deserve better and need the government to come fully on board. The tour operators clarified that a system free of loopholes would benefit not just them but the Belizean tourism product as well.


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