By Alexis Milan
Two major cruise lines have threatened to boycott Belize if the government were to insist on Ebola screening measures that would require Belize officials to inspect passengers’ passports.
Tourism Minister Manuel Heredia, disclosed this week the initial idea was to require each cruiseship passenger to present his/her passport on entering Belize.
Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise lines have objected to this procedure and have threatened to remove Belize from their cruise itenary.
Heredia explained that the cruise lines were concerned because their passengers would have already been screened by the time they reach Belize and individual screening of each passport would take away from the tourists’ time in Belize.
Minister Heredia said the government made the decision to drop the passport requirement on Wednesday. .
Tracy Taegar-Panton, Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Tourism, told The Reporter that Belize has a high disembarcation rate among cruise ship passengers, but that screening so many people would translate into a loss of tour time.
Panton explained that the cruise lines felt that passport screening was unnecessary in Belize because passengers boarding their cruiseships would have already been screened by United States Immigration, by the cruise lines according to their own updated protocols and additional screening would have been done in Honduras or Mexico depending on the ship’s route, since Belize is not the first port of call, she explained.
Panton said there has been a lot of inter-agency cooperation and all relevant stakeholders have been consulted in the decision-making processes relating to Ebola health precautions.
Belize Tourism Director, Karen Bevans told The Reporter that all cruise ships have adopted a Center for Disease Control protocol to require passengers to fill out a passenger manifest and a maritime declaration form.
These documents include necessary health and previous travel information of passengers onboard cruise ships. Belize will receive this information 24-hours prior to passengers leaving their ship to come ashore in Belize.
Bevans said that an additional precaution has been to station health inspectors at English Caye.
He she boards each cruiseship and accompanies it on its way to Belize to review documentation.