The Battle for Harvest Caye

Does the development live up to the hype of being good for the people of Belize?

Op/Ed by Alan Barry Ginn

Belize is a small, relatively poor, mostly English speaking, country on the western edge of the Caribbean sea. The WorldBank shows its population as 397,621 in 2020. Belize, roughly the size of Massachusetts, reached independence on September 21, 1981. According to UNICEF, Belize has a high rate of poverty. Tourism accounts for a large part of the Belizean economy.

Belize has two main Cruise Ports:

"Fort Street Tourism Village Cruise Port

Belize’s original cruise port is a tender port – approximately 15 minutes ship to shore. Looking rather like an open air mini-mall, the village has several courtyards, snack bars, and local stores with excellent duty-free shopping. Several restaurants offer authentic Caribbean and international cuisine, and there is often live local entertainment.

Harvest Caye Cruise Port

This newly opened docking port in southern Stann Creek District currently caters only for Norwegian Cruise Line passengers Passengers can take a tender for one of the many mainland excursions or enjoy the island, which features a large pool, beach, zip-lining, water sports, an enclosed nature area with birds and butterflies, bars and a variety of eateries.

Disembarkation rates are 80 percent for passengers and 15 percent for crew members. The tour purchasing rate for disembarked passengers is 60 percent, which compares favorably with the Caribbean average of 35 percent". [1]

The second of these, Harvest Caye, is the 'private island' for cruisers on Norwegian Cruise Lines with subsidiaries, Regent Seven Seas and Oceania cruises also docking here. It is a tiny sandbar off the coast of southern Belize that probably went unnoticed by any 'real' Caribbean pirates. NCL "spent an enormous amount of time and money to transform the island into a playground for its cruise guests". ... "In the “town” section of the island there are a number of souvenir stands and shops selling everything from small trinkets to bamboo bed sheets". [2]

"The island was developed in partnership with the Belizean government, and local inhabitants own the businesses and work onsite, contributing to the local economy". [3] As with any development on this scale, the story is quite complex and open to interpretation depending on your POV. While many argue for the development of sites like Harvest Caye, for economic reasons. Others put forward that this type of development can be very destructive and must comply with legal requirements to protect biodiversity and cultural assets. These elements are important because large corporations, claiming to support these requirements such as in their CSR statements, in fact, will attempt to bypass regulations in order to either hasten approvals or to access lower cost labour sources.

What makes Harvest Caye different?

As stated on Nowegian Cruise Lines's website: Harvest Caye is "Owned in partnership by NCL and the Belizean government, all restaurants, bars and shops on Harvest Caye are entirely Belizean-operated, making it an authentic Central American destination. All team members working on the island are locals. All stores in the shopping village are Belizean-owned. [4]

When the private island was first proposed by NCL, the development called for a "75-key eco-hotel and spa with over-water bungalows; a 70-slip marina with marina village; 40 luxury water-front estate villas; and a resident’s yacht and beach club". [5] At least up till now, these features have not materialized and likely they won't. Its also troubling to think that the entire island is only a sand bar with very low elevation above the sea. The impact of a hurricane will, most likely, devastate NCL's $50mm investment. Let's hope that never happens.

The scale of the proposal was way beyond anything that had, so far, ever been built in this essentially rural area of southern Belize. There was much resistance and many promises from NCL and the Belizean government. Criticism of the planned project ensued:

"Norwegian Cruise Lines Buys Harvest Caye in Belize: Is it the End of Placencia As We Know It?

San Pedro Scoop by Rebecca Coutant, August 25th, 2013

But what would happen if a multi-billion dollar cruise ship company bought an island less than 3 miles off the shores of your small town … and with only the most vague plans in place (big payoffs, few details), took advantage of the slow season, sluggish worldwide economy and divided local factions and made an agreement with your small government to bring in tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of tourists with promises that seem to change by the day?

Well … the tiny beach village of Placencia, Belize (population of roughly 800 to 1000) is about to find out.

Just recently, Norwegian Cruise Lines purchased 75 acre Harvest Caye from the Government of Belize for undisclosed amount (I’ve heard $3 to 10mm USD) with the intent to raze it and make it the main port in Belize for … well … general cruise ship fun.

To put things in perspective, the annual GDP of Belize is about equal to the cost of ONE GIANT NCL CRUISE SHIP ... That is how small our country is relatively. And in a world where money talks, that is how easily we can be railroaded by a huge profit driven corporation like Norwegian Cruise Lines". [6]

Stewart Krohn, Chairman, Placencia Chapter, Belize Tourism Industry Association, at around the same time, wrote a letter to the editor in Belize Hub, asking questions about the then proposed development, such as:

And this post on lays out very clearly what many people were already concerned about, that "when you don't have the facts on your side" ... it is nearly impossible to ... "decide for yourselves whether it will make life better for you, your children and your grandchildren". [8]

They said "It's all about jobs". [8] This is almost always put forward as the goal of developing tourism projects. But the number of jobs at the time was unknown. What is known is that the jobs will be seasonal, minimum wage, mostly part-time and based on the calls of NCL ships on Harvest Caye. A very small number of jobs such as for security guards may be permanent. Jobs that do not deliver health or pension benefits.

But the visitors don't see this. As far as what they do see, this is a bustling place with many workers busy serving their needs. There is little to no reason for visitors to see it any other way. They may, or may not, consider that the only time this is actually true is during the time the ship is docked there.

As well, the "cruise port [may] endanger 1200 jobs at nearby shrimp farms" ... "These mainstays of the economy depend on the highest standards of purity for a world market increasingly concerned with food quality. What will be the effect of sewage disposal on the island on the shrimp farms' intake of clean water? Massive pesticide use on the island that is famous for sand flies"? [8]

Finally, there is not even certainty about what the Government of Belize will earn from taxes on visitors. ... "Although there is a paltry US$7 tax paid by each passenger, under the memorandum of understanding signed by Government and NCL, the cruise line will be given a kickback by the Government of US$4"! [8]

Despite the objections raised by Stewart Krohn, Rebecca Coutant, and many others, "This, it has been explained, is to help NCL "recover its investment". Based on its own figures this means that NCL will recover its full capital investment from Belizean taxpayers well before its exclusive 25 year concession has expired. That's right, we the citizens of Belize will pay back NCL every penny of their US$50 million investment! No hotel in Belize has ever received a penny's worth of refund of the hotel tax. In fact no project anywhere in Belize has ever received this kind of special treatment. It's kind of like the slave being asked to repay the slave master for his room and board. It's also worth noting that NCL did not pay a penny in transfer tax on the purchase of the island or the company that owns it, thus depriving the treasury of perhaps a million dollars before the company hired even a single employee". [8] NCL 'recovers' a portion of the head tax as a kickback and also (most likely) includes a line in their costing for the visit to this island that is, in turn, charged to the visitor in their fare. So, it seems, they 'recover' their investment twice as fast. Clever. But shouldn't this 'kickback' be seen as a investment by the people of Belize? Probably will never happen and, as is shown below, the government of Belize actually ends up paying the wages for people employed there.

So, as with most such development projects, despite promises of employment and economic improvement, the vast bulk of the economic return is to the large corporation and very little returns to the country where the project takes place. Compare this to the return from land based tourist visits:

"It is worth noting that a single 25 room luxury hotel 'Turtle Inn' employs 125 Belizeans. That is at least half the number of workers that NCL plans to hire and that's just one small hotel! And the jobs are not part-time low paying seasonal ones; they are full time high paying jobs with room for advancement and additional income from tips and service charge. They are secure jobs that enable Belizeans to raise families in dignity, educate our children and plan for the future. In short, they are jobs that build a nation. Can the same be said for the part-time jobs at Harvest Caye"? [8]

So, a developer/owner, in this case, Coppola Hideaways, has invested their own money in a facility in Belize where it has a direct benefit to the people. It employs local people and it pays a share of taxes and does not get any form of kickback. The contrast could not be more stark. The fact that it benefits local people should be clearly impressed on the visitors who stay there. The truth is that when a visitor shows up to the 'private island' of Harvest Caye, Belizeans don't make anything because the wages are subsidized by their own government, whereas, when visitors stay at the Turtle Inn, they do make money as well as adding value in a real sense.

This discussion also raises a number of other important issues including the impacts of environmental degradation. The site is very close to the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the aforementioned shrimp beds. Any concerns about the environmental impact are well founded. In short, it appears, the return from the 'private island' of Harvest Caye is extremely limited for the people of Belize while the risks are very great. Ultimately, the approval of the site was given, despite considerable resistance from local people.

So, credit Norwegian Cruise Lines for its persistence. "Denied permission to build a cruise ship terminal on an island off southern Belize earlier this year, NCL announced on Wednesday the purchase of another set of islands, called Harvest Caye (pronounced 'key'), that it plans to turn into a southern tourist attraction for its cruise ship passengers. ... The big difference is that the original island, Crawl Caye, was in a marine reserve that formed part of the barrier reef —  a World Heritage Site. It was a clumsy, insensitive move that was ultimately rejected by the Belizean government, despite its outspokenly favorable attitude toward the cruise ship industry". [9] From this, it is clear that NCL had in their sights to develop a site near Belize; what is not clear is if NCL changed their position to demonstrate responsible action or not.

And, although the environmental concerns had been raised, "According to the online news site, dredging in the area reportedly caused 'significant damage' to nearby coral reefs, and some provisions in project's environmental impact assessment weren't followed". [10] Close to the reef, this area is very shallow, so currents carry silt a long way down the coast. Also, in the case of any discharge, accidental or otherwise, from the ships could be damaging. Do Belizean environmental laws cover this? Is anybody set up to watch for this? In fact, in January 2016, the project was temporarily halted by the Belizean Supreme Court when it had been determined that the "DOE did not follow the laws when it approved the EIA for Harvest Caye". [11]

"In his remarks, Justice Abel expressed concern over the way EIAs are approved, and hopes that with this ruling, such incidents are deterred. “This ought not to have happened, and one hopes this will not happen in a similar situation in the future,” said Justice Abel on the EIA’s approval. For losing the lawsuit, the defendants have to pay all costs of the BTIA’s court proceedings at a total of $50,000BZ". [11]

President of BTIA, Osmany Salas following their victory at court stated:

"BTIA is not against large tourism development projects. It has always advocated that the Government of Belize must ensure that the EIA process is fully complied with, no matter who the developer is, and that meaningful public consultation is had in the interest of safeguarding Belize's natural and cultural resources. It is the integrity of these resources that makes us a premier tourism destination". [11]

Hopefully, the resulting judgement sets a precedent when developers, or indeed governments, attempt to bypass laws designed to protect biosphere as well as cultural assets.

Also, considering that Harvest Caye is about three to four miles distant from the nearest main towns, Stann Creek and Placencia, the transport to Harvest Caye must be costly. Who pays for this? Is it the workers?

At the peak of the pandemic, Norwegian Cruise Line had been "faced with giving up Harvest Caye and other assets to avoid bankruptcy" and had offered up "two of its ships and two islands, one of which is Harvest Caye in Belize, in an attempt to raise US$2 billion and avoid bankruptcy". [12] However, the feared bankruptcy did not happen, NCL raised the capital and continues to bring its guests to Harvest Caye, at least for now. The bond has a four year maturity and also yields a very high rate of 12.25%, so this aspect of the story may not be over.

However, NCL was within their right to take this action. "According to PM Barrow, the island was privately owned prior to its sale to Norwegian and as a result there was nothing government could have done to interfere with that transaction". [13] No indication of who previously owned it but the location had been approved for development.

Unfortunately, despite the injection of funding, NCL was still forced to lay the employees off who worked on Harvest Caye. "Another massive layoff is being reported in the cruise tourism sector where Norwegian Cruise Line has sent home close to three hundred employees from its Harvest Caye destination in southern Belize". [14] It seems that the whole arrangement is somewhat precarious.

Not For Everyone

On a TripAdvisor blog, one contributor has written: "The destination here is billed as Belize, but I was looking forward to visiting the real deal, not this place which is more like an American amusement park than the real Belize." ... Another contributor writes: "Poor substitute for going to Belize.". This same contributor also states "They destroyed the reef and Belize is the second largest Barrier Reef in the world and they destroyed it near where they built this island, absolutely hated it. The ship kicks up a ton of silt coming and going every day and I can only imagine with it's doing to the other surrounding Reef totally disappointed that they did that in Belize." [15]

On a blog at, a contributor further stated that "I’ve never been to a private island where food and drinks aren’t included" but this was followed by comments indicating NCL was permitted to build the private island "as long as NCL used locals for both the shops and employees on the island. The money spent there stays in the Belize economy and not in NCL's pocket". and another said "employees on Harvest Caye are actually from Belize". [16]

On another blog at, yet another contributor stated "The opening of this port has been delayed quite a bit as it appears there was some local resistance to NCL creating this private island stop. I got the impression that opening this using local vendors was in part to appease the Belize government. Remember that Belize city will now be losing the revenue." [17]

The word "appease" is striking here. It's as if the cruise line is fully within its rights to do what it does and the local government can expect only to receive a small compensation as an "appeasement". And since "Belize city will now be losing the revenue", it is not clear whether this loss was ever considered in any discussions with NCL.

However, the resistance did result in some limited benefits for local people but are these benefits proportional to the benefit NCL derives?

Norwegian Cruise Lines chooses to frame the result of these confrontations in a more favourable light:

""We have worked closely with the government of Belize to ensure that this spectacular destination was authentic for our guests, provided economic opportunities for the local community and preserved and protected Belize's incredible natural beauty," said Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of parent company Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., in a statement." [18] These words, from 2016, do have the spirit, at least, of taking some sort of social and environmental responsibility.

But is it worth the risks? And is the benefit to the people of Belize proportional to what the government has foregone in taxes and licensing fees?

On island concessions derive income from the passengers that goes to local people. "Unlike most other cruise lines' islands, food and drinks are extra, and the ship card cannot be used for payment". [19]

No indication of what percentage is paid back to NCL as rent and/or commission. And everyone knows that cruisers resent any extra payments for food or beverage because the general feeling amongst cruisers is that the've paid for F&B in their fare and it should all be included. Most will return to the ship for lunch or refreshments. Either way, NCL is still in control of how the passenger spends their money, and how they profit from it.

As a contributor on TripAdvisor has so astutely pointed out:

"Based upon what I am reading in this thread, it looks like NCL will have "vendors" selling F&B on HC. Since NCL will have the master lease to the island, it seems they will sublease vendor space or have some sort of concessions contract (a percentage of sales) with the vendors. It might be a combination of both--just in case the vendor doesn't show on a particular day, Frank still gets paid.

Pretty ingenious. Frank has figured out a way to get you to pay for your drinks, twice. Some will say I got UBP for free--but you really didn't. So if you get a beverage on the island, you'll be paying for what you already paid for--and Frank gets a cut. Now, can Frank figure out a way to have the vendors charge an 18% gratuity"? [20]

The 'Frank' here is the aforementioned Frank J. Del Rio - the president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. [21] Mr Del Rio is a native of Cuba, another relatively poor Caribbean country but he has lived in Florida for most of his life. Mr Del Rio's annual compensation in 2020 was over $36mm USD, roughly the same as 9,164 Belizeans. In 2019, the ratio was: 1:3,789, because in 2020, Mr Del Rio's pay doubled while Belizeans income dropped by over 15%, due to the pandemic. In 2018, the ratio was 1:4,965. [22a,b,c]

In August 2021, in an interview with Love FM in Belize City about the resumption of Norwegian Cruise Line port calls to Harvest Caye, the reporter asked: "Okay so good news for all those small entrepreneurs there on the island". [23]

The response by Abil Castaneda, Director, Quality Management & Capacity Development, Belize Tourist Bureau stated: “Correct, we have quite a few Belizean owned businesses here they’re fully gold standard by the BTB and they’re also doing their business operations and going quite well.”". [23]

And further: "The return of NCL is a very important step in Belize's ongoing efforts to rebuild the tourism sector and boost economic activity, as countless Belizeans and businesses have returned to work". [24]

BUT, ... while it may be possible to take excursions off the island, it is only by using NCL tenders. One commenter said, back in 2016: "You will only be able to do the excursions that NCL offers". [25] ... Another poster wrote, "I just spoke with a NCL shore excursion representative and was told there is no immediate plans for ferry service from Harvest Caye to Malacate or anywhere on the Mainland. NCL will be only option for shore excursions". [26] Once on the island, there's no practical option but to stay right there. And, there is obviously no opportunity for independent local tour guides. The MOU between NCL and the government of Belize is in force for 25 years.

Norwegian Cruise Line's brilliant play for their cruise passengers is not the end of the story:

As with all 'private islands' the objective of the cruise line is to keep the cruise passenger firmly within its grasp. Most cruise lines have created these entirely 'constructed' sites and Harvest Caye exemplifies this approach. Probably most cruisers are attracted to its idyllic appearance with its claim of 'authenticity'. This looks brilliant on the NCL brochures and annual reports but maybe not so much to the local people who might be justified in feeling betrayed. Why? Because, as a consequence of the way the concession was negotiated, very little money returns to the local people, in this case Belizeans, while much is put at risk in the building and ongoing use of these sites.

Harvest Caye was originally the brainchild of Colin Murphy, Vice President of Norwegian Cruise Line with responsibility for Destination Development. [27] It is clearly a win for NCL but maybe not so much for Belizeans. Local people everywhere will look at the results and will, reasonably, see this as a high risk enterprise and the resistance will continue. But the pattern continues as well. As long as governments continue to undermine their own people, their own social needs and their own environmental standards, the development of new tourism resources will continue to mostly benefit large wealthy companies.

This is, after all, what they do for a living - and they are very good at it. Whereas, small countries on a one-to-one basis, are not so adept at negotiating on this scale. So, the consideration of the needs of local peoples will continue to go unheeded until there is a large enough outcry that something is not quite right. Local people know what the real situation is and can't really be blamed for not 'holding their tongues' so much when interacting with the cruise ship visitors. Governments and corporations choose to ignore this kind of local knowledge at their peril.

To set it right, corporations with their pledges of 'Corporate Social Responsibility', or CSR, need to put the costs of supporting local economies and protecting local biosphere assets on the income statement. Until this happens, no company can know what the real cost of doing business is. In the case of Norwegian Cruise Line, they have a 'CSR ranking' of 38 on CSR Hub. [28] This is actually substantially above the ranking for the cruise ship industry, which is currently 'zero' on the same site.

But these are not direct costs to them, so they are not likely to do this. Instead, these costs are forced on the local governments and there is almost no chance for any recovery. As stated, these small countries tend to negotiate these agreements on a one-to-one basis. This means there is limited ability to effectively negotiate. Unless and until there is some kind of united stand, they will continue to be victims of these large corporate predators, that have effectively morphed into modern Caribbean 'pirates'.

This does not have to be the way because the large companies, such as cruise lines, need the local resources to continue to operate. They make a lot of money from these assets. For example, between Feb 28 and May 19, 2022, NCL is estimated to bring 113,045 passengers to Harvest Caye aboard Norwegian, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas vessels. [29] Just on the tax kickback alone, this is a profit of $452,180. But they also make a profit on the roughly 80% of passengers who disembark, from the vendors selling f&b, trinkets, tours, zipline plus cabana, villa and equipment rentals, etc. If this is an average of $25, for example, conservatively this means a estimated profit of $2,260,900 in just 30 calls in 80 days assuming the ships are near capacity. So, the total gross profit could be $2,713,080 during this period, not including crew. As this is considered an international port, no other Belizeans, except employees, are allowed on the island, so there is no chance of any independent sellers.

The Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association states in their 2017/18 analysis of economic contributions from cruise tourism that Belize accounted for $86.12mm ($68.33mm from 877,300 passengers) but its not stated what portion of this is for Harvest Caye or for NCL ships. The report does state that passenger average expenditure for Belize was $25 each so the above estimate is not out of line. But this was before the pandemic took hold.

Ships arrive at 8am and passenger must be back on board before about 6pm which makes roughly a ten hour stop. The minimum wage in Belize is $BZD3.30 or $1.65USD. This rate hasn't changed since 2012. [30] So the employee cost is roughly $16.50 each for the day. [31] Even if there are 300 people working [14], that makes the labour cost $4,950 per day or $148,500 for the 30 days that NCL ships are docked. Not bad: $2,713,080 gross and labour cost of $148,500 which is less than a third of the kickback NCL receives from the Belizean government. In effect, the Belizean government is paying the people to work there and NCL still makes a tidy profit off them. And yet, NCL has threatened to replace local workers with Filipinos. [7] Small wonder that cruise lines love these 'private islands'. But is this consistent with a company that claims to support CSR?

In their own 'Sail & Sustain' book from 2021, NCL states: "We are committed to improving lives in the communities where our employees live and work, our private destinations (Great Stirrup Cay and Harvest Caye) and the nearly 500 destinations our ships visit globally." [32]

Nonetheless, this is a clear demonstration that these large companies see things as 'if they don't get what they want, they will look elsewhere'.

No other port in the storm ... Ultimately, this is not just about Harvest Caye. Will/Can we learn anything from this experience?

Looking at the bigger picture. Attractive and easily developed Caribbean sites, where roughly a third of world cruises are taken, are not an unlimited resource. Eventually, they will run out of places to develop and people who may be willing to capitulate to their demands because, as the above suggests: what do they have to lose?

Most cruise lines already have 'private islands' to include in itineraries and they use them in place of porting in Caribbean towns or cities. For the cruise line, this is one way to exercise nearly complete control over their passengers and they may want more. Plus, they hold the poorer Caribbean countries hostage in a 'take it or leave it' style of negotiation.

The small incremental increase in cost for the rich corporation might slightly hit their bottom line. Realistically, how much difference can wages like those paid in Belize make? Still, 21st century, billion dollar corporations are driven by a colonial mindset that is hundreds of years out of date. They continue to play the game for pennies not considering that this pittance of revenue can truly make a BIG difference to local, usually indigenous, peoples. Again, is this consistent with claims of acting responsibly? And if the tour companies or cruise lines aren't doing so, can they really expect their customers to step up? Also, consider that the local biodiversity will continue to be a high quality attraction and isn't that what they are actually selling?

So, let's get real! Caribbean countries need to take inventory of what they do have to bring to the negotiation table, or not. Their land based assets such as small cayes that may be attractive to the cruise lines. Once these assets have been identified, these places should be excluded from any negotiations with the cruise lines, where possible. Also, to add any amount of relative strength, these countries need to form negotiating blocs. To unify on just how much to charge the cruise lines to port in their cities. Whereas, the pressure is on the small countries in any negotiation, pressure needs to be exerted on the cruise lines to be open, fair and forthright.

This specifically means employing local people, paying a fair wage and docking fee and to uphold employment standards as they do when employing US citizens. Even if this forces a slightly higher cruise cost, it is clear, after the pandemic that there is plenty of demand. Indeed, probably most customers would not object to paying a little more to ensure a sustainable and responsible trip. This could, in fact, become a major selling point if handled properly.

It is notable that recent recruiting drives by Royal Caribbean are getting large turnouts in Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Vincent, Sint Maarten and Trinidad to address the hiring issues.

Caribbean countries also need to rethink tax holiday and licensing regimes. The combination of these things will deliver a small profit to Caribbean countries and serve to redress an imbalance that has been in place ever since cruise ships have sailed there.

In the long run, the loss of availability of these high quality, attractive sites may be greater for the cruise lines than for the destinations. Any site held by local governments will continue to be an asset for the local people —who are the real owners. Ultimately, the competition becomes about the quality of the site, rather than the 'race to the bottom' and who can post the lowest bid. So, when local people stand to benefit in a real way, local support for development projects may actually begin to improve. But it will be a long battle.


Taken in the early eighties, an image of San Blas Indians approaching the cruise ship to dive for quarters thrown into the water by passengers.
The San Blas people themselves control their tourism activity.

How Public Participation in Belize Changed the Course of Cruising by Rich Wilson, Seatone Consultants, 2012

"So what has come from the aforementioned public consultation process?
Following submission of the cruise report in March 2011, the government of Belize invited Seatone Consultants to share the findings and recommendations at another series of public meetings. During these meetings, government officials stated that they would respect the recommendations and forward the report to the Cabinet of Ministers. The desire by many to not have cruise tourism in the area was openly acknowledged. In addition, officials stressed that the public call for government policies that catalyze job opportunities—that “make rain” as it is said in Belize—had not fallen on deaf ears. The government promised to redouble its efforts to stimulate economic growth in a way that is consistent with sustainability principles and spreads economic benefits to the largest number of Belizeans possible.

If there is a lesson that can be drawn from this story, it is that the power for decision-making in a democratic society can still reside in the public sphere. In looking back, the Belize government should be credited for convening a genuine consultation process that, in the end, gave deference to the greater public interest. On the other side of the social spectrum, Placencia residents have since worked diligently on a local plan for sustained yet sustainable economic growth that creates widespread opportunities in the community. And while the private developers of the proposed cruise port were arguably scared off from this recent act of civic engagement, it is important to note that the issue of cruise industry growth has not gone away. Recent rumors suggest that the industrial port at Independence or offshore gems like the Sapodilla Cayes in the far south are now being considered for visitation by cruise ships. If these rumors show any signs of truth, stakeholders would do well to reference the report—a direct outgrowth of their own hopes, concerns and viewpoints on the issue—to evaluate whether or not cruise tourism on any scale is appropriate for the south.

In the end, the social viability assessment of cruise tourism in southern Belize revealed an earnest desire by multiple stakeholder groups to work closely with government on tourism planning and development issues. In pivoting away from cruise expansion in Placencia, the Belize Tourism Board and Ministry of Tourism have created an opportunity to build stakeholder trust and facilitate cooperation on a host of issues outlined in the Action Plan and National Sustainable Tourism Master Plan, and at a scale and level of civic engagement not previously seen in the region. On the other hand, private sector interests and the wider public may bring a proactive approach to future collaboration based on rational dialogue, openness, mutual respect and shared responsibility. The past development and implementation of whale shark guidelines and environmental performance standards for the marine recreation sector in the area demonstrates strong precedent for precisely this type of effective collaboration. This, in time, has led to economically beneficial outcomes while maintaining the health and resiliency of the region’s natural and cultural assets. It is in this context that the recommendations born of the cruise consultations may provide a pathway to sustainable economic prosperity that grows from the expertise and interests of all public and private sector players throughout southern Belize.".


Other news sources confirm this, such as: Financial Times ( )
[22] a:; (Frank J Del Rio executive compensation: 2020: $36,381,255, 2019: $17,808,364, 2018: $22,593,061); b: Frank J. Del Rio's salary doubles:; c: (Belize GNI per person 2020: $3,970, 2019: $4,700, 2018: $4,550))
[29]; see: for a run-down of charges for services on Harvest Caye.
[31] If Mr Del Rio's income in 2022 were, for example $20,000,000, he would collect about $4,848 for each dollar paid to a Belizean. ($80,000 per day v $16.50 per day, USD, based on 250 working days per year.) The $16.50 daily rate for a ten hour day is barely above the hourly rate in the United States.
[32]; see 'Communities' on pg 17

Accessed between February 23 to 28, 2022.