Letter to the Island: Island condition damaging tourism

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

Letters-to-the-EditorDear Editor,
The island is depending on tourism by 95% or even more. Each business, all employees and nearly all residents are depending with their livelihood on a well functioning and well planned tourism industry.
This year, the very first time the island is facing a downwards trend in tourism arrivals, tourism numbers and sales. Hotels are hard hit as well as private accommodations rentals. Many restaurants and tour operators also feel this impact.
There are many reasons which can be applied: the seaweed invasion, the crime rate, international economy, international airfares, BTB's tourism marketing and advertising, loss of charm on the island due to unpleasant and unsafe traffic in town, on roads and in the ocean and more.
One item seems to be forgotten as a significant factor for tourism wellbeing: The mix-ins of commercial interests within residential areas and its negative impact for tourism.
All tourists visit to get away not only from cold weather but from noisy cities, crowded traffic and to recharge on a relaxing island in quiet and peace.
As a matter of fact, our tourism officials never seem to calculate the damage which was and is currently done to businesses in San Pedro town due to the unpleasant and unsafe traffic situation. E.g. Tourists do not like sitting at a restaurant in town where noisy and stinking cars drive by. Neither do they like the unsafe shopping and walking situation in town.
As a result more and more tourists avoid town and large sums are lost every year by business owners in town; a few thousand here, a few thousand there, adding up to millions overall. Yes, businesses outside of San Pedro could benefit.
However, even outside of San Pedro a lack of planning and foresight seems to become problematic for attracting tourists on a repeat basis.
We live in a small community located south of San Pedro. There are mostly single resident home owners and also some small resorts. We have a tour operator who has served us professionally, charming and very well during all these years, no doubt. Our tour operator has a dock inside a full developed residential area. He operates out of and from an easement road to the ocean. To the North and the South of it is a fully developed small and quite residential community very popular for tourists and for owners to own a condo or house.
For years our tour business was extremely helpful, respectful and beneficial to the community and for our local tourism business inside our small community. He used to operate just four (4) small boats, successfully, profitable and with a 100% approval rating.
Unfortunately this seems to change. Over the last years, when the island was blessed with high tourism growth numbers he has started to grow as well. More boats were needed and especially larger boats. His dock has become a boat hub especially as he also started to rent spaces for other tour operators on that dock. The number of boats, boat sizes, arrival and departure of boats has multiplied. Our beloved tour operator has become a controversial boat hub and opposition among neighbors and vacationers seems too grown.
More boats has caused negative impact for our wellbeing and tourism. Guests and owners are more and more impacted by gasoline fumes, loud music, and loud boat noise, noise by large and drunk spring-break like groups and more and more by dangerous boat situations for snorkelers. Boat sizes have grown exorbitantly.
Especially the beaches and the guests on beaches downwind are bothered by the vastly increasing engine fumes. Many condo owners and renters complain about the noise waking them up while napping. Others have complained about engine fumes hitting their location every 5 to 10 min. and the implications for health. The smelly fumes even enter condo units on the inside, their kitchens and their bedrooms early in the morning sometimes as early as 6am.
Many tourists have complained that the tranquility this island was known for and the island style is rapidly fading. Many guests have told us that they will not return any more. Rentals are down, steep.
Owners, vacation guests will ultimately move on to other areas and other countries where they feel better taken care of and better protected; to areas who seem to care more and better for tourists. Investors/buyers will also have to consider that the island does not considerate to separate commercial impact on residential areas; a big mistake!!!
This damage is already felt and we are sure that our small area is not the only area feeling such negative impact of commercialization of tourism areas.
Ultimately, tourists do not often complain but mostly just follow their feelings and instincts by choosing other countries for a next vacation. This seems to have become a trend which is felt financially by each and every business on this island.
If that trend continues, I am wondering who will be paying the gasoline for the cars, trucks and golf carts, the boats and their maintenance, the up-keeping. Further real estate prices will also be impacted and tourism tax and GST will fall.
At the end, every business owner as well as every employee on this island will have to pay for these mistakes with diminishing profits, lower wages and surely early lay-offs in spring. The good years are over and it's time to act.
If there are less returning tourists, everyone on the island will be impacted; every business on this island, every business in San Pedro town, every tour operator, every taxi driver, both of our island airlines, every boutique and souvenir stand, every grocery store and every employee working on this island. Everybody will be impacted with less money with just one exception: the officials who are ultimately causing this downward trend will not feel the impact in their wallet. That's unfortunate.
Thank you.
Matt Hunoval

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