Letter to the Editor: Why does the island’s administration care so little about tourism?

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

Letters-to-the-EditorDear Editor:
We were regulars since 2009; sometimes we visited twice a year, all together 12 times. We used to love this island - it was cozy, charming and there was a unique character. Our first year, we stayed at a hotel in/near town, then further South and a few times up North. Mostly we had visited just the 2 of us. Three times we also brought friends, and twice we vacationed with our kids.
Finally we will quit.
We saw it coming over years, the worsening situation how unsustainably the island was developing. But for some years, we were still somewhat hopeful that logic eventually would prevail. By now we have no hope.
The years of "no rules, no regulations, no plan, no foresight, no vision" has smashed this originally so beautiful island to a new low in attractivity. For years, charm, coziness and local identity had been compromised on behalf of convenience, tastelessness and quick money. As a result, it took only a few short years from being voted "Island #1 in the World" to a ranking somewhere near the bottom.
The tackiness of electronic billboards, the ugliness of the advertising sign bonanza all over the island, the loss of island identity due to high traffic in combination with often arrogant and unsafe driving, unsightly development, the complete absence of a zoning law (junk yard businesses are mixed into residential areas w/o regards for tranquility, beauty and tourism), the absence of a sustainable transportation/traffic plan, unregulated and dangerous boat traffic, lack of infrastructure to name just a few…"Viva to a cheaper version of Mexico but at higher prices!"
The ugliness of many commercial businesses right on the main roads had transformed your roads into an eye sore for golf cart driving tourists. The trucking and vehicle traffic gives tourists another cold chill. San Pedro town has been converted into nothing else than a circling taxi circus without parking. Every year San Pedro became less appealing for tourists and reviews from travelers and experts become worse and worse.
If there was a junk yard vehicle somewhere, it would find a home on Ambergris Caye. Every lawn mower with a seat would get registered in San Pedro and every race car driver would find a taxi job on this island. All at no concern for anybody "if tourists don't like it, they can…whatever!”
"The More, the Better" was the only recognizable plan over the years, "Quantity instead of Quality". Americans don't like regulations, was the nonsense excuse for "Higher, Bigger, Uglier, Trashier, Faster" and that all right into your tourists' faces: "Take it or Leave it".
The general direction of developments now seems to be a mixture of highest density shoe box buildings squeezed on the smallest of lots w/o parking and no character, a touch of Mexican Swap Meet from South Central LA with the addition of the newest splashes from Vegas billboards on an ugly looking commercial trucking highway. This is not a winning formula to attract golf cart tourists to a very small island. There is no taste, no style and no direction visible any more. It seems there is no long term plans about anything.
When talking with some locals we got an even better understanding of the island's mindset. Locals like this island as junky as it has become, period. They see no problem at all. Not one of the many island friends we had spoken to over the years seemed to be unhappy with the current lack of appeal, lack of charm and most of the ugliness. Boarded windows on houses in town, no problem; thousands of advertising signs on roads everywhere, no problem; sand trucks all day, no problem; vehicle invasion, no problem; ugly industrial businesses right in tourists' faces, no problem…the list is endless.
"Belizeans like it that way and tourists are just here for a week anyhow", while thereafter new tourists will arrive. In general, tourists are already seen as an entitlement on this island. Make no mistake; we tourists feel that deep under our skin.
And another often used excuse we have heard: "YOU have much more traffic in the US than we have here on the island" and the logical follow up "So then, what are YOU complaining about" was not spoken out loud but very much felt.
Our local friends on the island generally were just wondering why the two of us didn't switch long ago and vacation at other destinations, if we do not like how unsustainable the island is developing. Yes, the understanding how to successfully handle tourism is very low on the island, unfortunately and based on Quick Bucks at the expense of a prosperous future. Once your kids have grown up, they will have to live with your created mess.
Therefore our thought is: "Why does the island's administration care so little about tourism?"
Why would they even care at all? Right?
With all that great and successful trucking and "Speedy Gonzales" taxi business on this island, there is really no need for that 😉
We feel angry and sorry at the same time!!!
Hasta La Vista and Bye Bye,
Gina Brown & Allan Benson
Austin, TX, USA

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