Community Reporting Anyone?

January 1st, 2009
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private] v7-1-My VoiceThe fall of 2008 has brought a great deal of not-welcomed-by-all excitement in many tourist destinations around the world. Many of these disruptions were caused by citizens of these tourist destinations ready to go to the streets regardless of the damage caused to the tourist economies of their regions.

In Costa Rica, local fishermen used their boats to blockade the port and prevented cruise ships from entering.

For over a week protesters took over Thailand’s biggest international airport paralyzing the country’s tourists industry and stranding hundreds of thousands of travelers.

Rioters on the streets of Athens have caused millions of dollars in damages and cancellations of tourist bookings for months.

On Hawaii most populated island, while the president-elect Obama was vacationing there, an island wide 24-hour power outage caused major disruption.

How do I know about all this? Because I have read about it in a newspaper, or a magazine.

If some people had their way the five days of street riots on Roatan should never be reported. While some seem preoccupied with keeping “negative” events from reaching national and local press, the root causes of these events go unanswered.

What is damaging is that tourists and investors get an oversimplified, bias version of what took place, and can happen again during the Roatan street riots. This abbreviated and often under informed version of riots reached tourists and cruise ship companies not via Bay Islands Voice, but via US State Department Warnings, cruisecritic.com articles, and on-line tourist blogs.

Bay Islands Voice is a community magazine, not a tourist magazine, and so are our readers. Bayislandsvoice.com website receives around 20,000 unique visitors a month and around 80% of them are repeat visitors to our website. Only a small fraction of both our print and online readers are first-time visitors to the islands. We believe in the right of readers to know the truth about matters that do, or might impact them, or their investments. We print all the truth fit to print, not the watered down version.

Or motto on the cover of the magazine since the first, March 2003 edition is: “Reporting Life of the Island Communities.” We are serving the island’s residents and investors with unbiased reporting and analysis to help them understand the realities of the archipelago and make informed decisions about their future. This makes us different from both the mainland press and the intermittent real-estate brochures that have been appearing on Roatan.

An island woman told me how Cayman Islands authorities have prevented press from disembarking a plane to cover the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma, that severely damaged the island in 2005. The same hurricane hit Cozumel and Cancun, Mexico head on while destroying dozens of hotels, uprooting trees and eroding beaches.

Following the hurricane, cruise ship companies had to divert their ships from the Caymans and Cancun to other ports for nine months. While Mexico opened up the disaster area to scrutiny and the Cayman Islands tried to control media access, both countries quickly and efficiently repaired the hurricane damage and were presentable to cruise ship traffic by the beginning of the following season.

If a hurricane hits Honduras and the Bay Islands, the situation is likely to be quite different. The government should not be counted on to do step in quickly, repair damage to infrastructure, and assist private businesses with loans and significant rebuilding assistance. Who might raise awareness of the disaster and need of help to the Bay Islands, will be the media. I suggest every Bay Islands business prepare a rolodex of media contacts to call.

This Honduran department is not the Cayman Islands, nor it is Mexico, and no one should be counting on a consolidated Honduran government effort in repairing Hurricane damage. [/private]

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