BELIZE CITY, Belize – The Belize Tourism Board (BTB) and Belize’s National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) officially announced today the establishment of mandatory protective policies for cave tubing in Belize, effective October 15, 2008. The policies were developed in direct response to the cave tubing incident which occurred during a Carnival Cruise Lines offshore excursion in the country last Wednesday.
The offshore cave tubing incident, involving the death of a 52-year-old Orlando, Florida woman, remains under investigation by authorities. The investigation includes a thorough examination of Carnival Cruise Lines and its contracted tour operator, Bel-Cruise. The Tour Operator Licensing Committee met today to review the facts in the case in an effort to finalize recommendations on what sanctions should be placed on the tour operator in question.
According to director of Tourism Tracy Panton, a cave tubing accident of this magnitude has never occurred. “Belize remains committed to being a safe and secure destination for travelers around the world,” said Panton. “To ensure this reputation continues, the BTB will work closely with the NICH, the Tour Operator Licensing Committee and other relevant law enforcement agencies not only to investigate the incident, but also for the enforcement of new and preventative policies that will be immediately instituted.”
To prevent future episodes of this caliber, the BTB and the NICH have established several mandatory policies, set to be legally enforced beginning October 15, 2008. These policies include: enhanced, mandatory guide-to-guest ratios of eight to one for all operating cave tubing tour companies in Belize; additional signage posted in each cave tubing excursion site, informing participants of park rules and current water conditions and/or warnings; meticulous scheduling of cave tubing tours offered by tour operators and the continuation of mandatory specialty training for each cave tubing guide (which will include education on new regulations).
In addition to the updated policies, helmets will also be required for each cave tubing participant starting January 1, 2009. Furthermore, NICH, who manages the Cave Branch Archeological Park, will be acquiring additional monitoring equipment for cave tubing excursions that will measure currents and other factors needing to be taken into consideration for ensuring participant safety.