Last updated: 10:10 AM ET, Wed April 06 2016

San Pedro Golf Cart Ban Highlights Belize’s Growing Tourism Profile

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | April 05, 2016

San Pedro Golf Cart Ban Highlights Belize’s Growing Tourism Profile

PHOTO: Golf cart is the primary mode of transportation in San Pedro, Belize. (Photo by Brian Major).

Despite the mayor’s ban on their importation, it appears golf carts are still being brought into San Pedro, Belize.

The small resort town’s golf cart cache was discovered this week by vigilant reporters from the San Pedro Sun, the local newspaper, who posted an article detailing the “containers full of carts” arriving at the local pier.

The carts arrived despite earlier promises from Daniel Guerrero, San Pedro’s mayor, that golf cart rental companies would be barred from increasing their fleets.

Admittedly golf carts aren’t often found beyond resort properties and, of course, golf courses in most Caribbean destinations. But in San Pedro, an increasingly popular coastal town treasured for its narrow downtown streets, the golf cart is the primary mode of motorized transportation.

Moreover the mayor’s ban was prompted by a full-blown, golf cart-driven transportation crisis resulting in “constant complaints, letters from disgruntled visitors [and] residents’ vocal opposition following overwhelming traffic," the Sun reports.

Effective April 1, San Pedro has launched a moratorium on the importation of golf carts, Guerrero told the Sun. The mayor did admit “a few additional golf carts” made it to the island in the past few weeks, but said “The only additional golf carts you might see coming to the island is because these places have permits to bring over a certain amount of carts and they have not brought in all of them.”

Located on Belize’s Ambergris Caye, San Pedro is a town of 12,400 residents with footprint-perfect, white-sand beaches and a lively downtown district highlighted by Front Street, which is lined with restaurants, bars, ice cream shops and souvenir stands.

Belize’s barrier reef extends for more than two miles along San Pedro, and the town’s beach is lined with dive shops, excursion boats, open-air bars and restaurants, and water taxi stations. San Pedro is very popular with dive and snorkeling enthusiasts.

In some ways the golf cart dilemma highlights Belize’s ongoing transition from a sleepy nation dependent on oil and agricultural industries to a major Caribbean tourist destination. Belize hosted 341,124 visitor arrivals in 2015, a 6.2 percent increase over 2014. The country’s visitor arrivals have increased 35.3 percent since 2003 according to Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) statistics.

Belize is also a fast-growing cruise destination, hosting 957,975 cruise ship arrivals in 2015, eighth among Caribbean destinations tracked by CTO.

Last month Norwegian Cruise Line issued details on Harvest Caye, a $100 million private island development in Belize. Scheduled to open in November and located on two adjoining islands off shore from Placencia, a small fishing village, the development will include Belize’s first cruise ship pier, a marina facility for mainland excursions, a seven-acre beach, restaurants and eco-tourism and adventure activity centers.

Harvest Caye will be a port of call on Norwegian’s western Caribbean itineraries and on select Caribbean sailings of sister brands Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises. The development has been the subject of some controversy, as local environmentalists have questioned Harvest Caye’s impact on the region’s natural environment and small-scale tourism identity.

Indeed work on the development continued even after a Belize Supreme Court judge ruled the Belizean government had taken improper shortcuts in its environmental review of the project.

Guerrero said San Pedro officials are “doing everything possible” to alleviate vehicular traffic in the town and create parking. The town recently built its first public parking lot and will build another on the island’s northern end.

Guerrero also encouraged residents and visitors to use vehicles and carts only when necessary. “Let’s all start walking,” he said. 

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