Ministering Tourism

December 1st, 2004
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private] Thierry De Pierrefeu Midence, 45, was born in Tegucigalpa and studied in France, earning a Master’s degree in Finance. Upon returning to Honduras, he joined Grupo Midence, a holding company involved in several Central American countries. He formed a partnership with Kempinski hotels and built the first beachfront hotel under this hotel chain in Latin America. In January 2002, Minister de Pierrefeu was appointed by President Maduro as Minister of Tourism, his first time holding political office. In his first three years, his ministry implemented the Tourist Police Force on the north coast and in the Bay Islands and focused on the development of a tourist & resort complex in Tela. Minister de Pierrefeu also serves as President of Grupo Midence Soto.

v2-14-Interview-Minister of TourismBay Islands VOICE: What is the status of bidding for Roatan’s cruise ship dock?
Min. Thierry De Pierrefeu: We had confirmation from Royal Caribbean that they do want to participate and Norwegian Cruise Lines wants to participate also. Carnival – we do not have confirmation that they will be participating. It’s an open, international [30 year, Roatan Municipality only] bid based upon a design based on what are the minimum services to be provided by whoever wins the bid.
B.I.V.: Does the bid require a construction of an additional dock?
Min. T.P.: Yes, it does. When we reach a trigger of passengers arriving at the dock per year, but no longer than in five years, they have to build a second berthing facility. So there would be two ships docked at the same time. There is a requirement of developing and building commercial, land-based facilities with regards to parking areas.
B.I.V.: Is there a danger of creating a monopoly of one cruise line on Roatan?
Min. T.P.: That will not happen. In the bidding process, whoever participates has to have an open facility. Meaning that whoever wins the bid has only the right to preferential berthing. All major cruise ship companies will have access to the dock.
B.I.V.: How soon can the Congress vote on approval of the bid?
Min. T.P.: That will happen quite quickly. We’ve been working at it for many, many months now. Technically, it wasn’t easy to set up as we don’t have much experience in our country as far as the cruise line facilities.
B.I.V.: Is there any prospect of a cruise ship dock in Oak Ridge Municipality or Utila?
Min. T.P.: Not to my knowledge. I don’t know of any initiatives whether public or private.
B.I.V.: Do you see a disparity in the growth of tourism among the four Bay Islands municipalities? How can Guanaja or Oak Ridge catch-up?
Min. T.P.: Guanaja in particular is lagging behind Roatan and Utila. In Guanaja’s case, it’s the lack of infrastructure. It hasn’t had the support that it requires to develop a market segment – the high-end, high value-added market. Starting in the next couple months, the government will begin building a terminal at the airport, taking care of the sewage at Bonacca Cay, Savannah Bight and Mangrove Bight, constructing a new facility for solid waste management, new fresh water system. Very soon, you will see machinery arriving to rebuild a road between Mangrove and Savannah Bight. There is also a project for a tourism road on the north side of the island. We will also be constructing a new pier for waste management. We will be financing the enhancement of Bonacca Cay. The government will be heavily investing in Guanaja to create the minimum conditions for sustainable development of tourism.
B.I.V.: What about Jose Santos Guardiola?
Min. T.P.: There has been a disparity within Roatan’s two municipalities. I feel the greatest potential now is JSG. All the remaining nice, large beaches are in JSG. Why did it [the development] happen on this [West] side of the island? Because the private sector from this side of the island was more dynamic.
B.I.V.: What percentage of National GDP comes from tourism and how much of it comes from tourism in the Bay Islands?
Min. T.P.: We did a social-economic study on the Bay Islands conducted by University of California-Davis, and the results were astonishing. Today, over 64% of all Bay Islands GDP is generated by or related to tourism. Now, the tourism is by far the largest income generating activity of the Bay Islands. As far as contribution of Bay Islands tourism to the whole country tourism GDP [or total GDP], unfortunately we do not have these statistics, not yet.
B.I.V.: Today you are changing some of the key points in the new environmental law for the Bay Islands. What are some of the most important points that you are changing?
Min. T.P.: It’s not a law, it’s a norm. What has been done so far were workshops. The artificial beaches, setbacks, can we build on water were the more discussed topics. I feel we are arriving at a version everybody can live with.
B.I.V.: Is the Migration Chapter included in the current draft?
Min. T.P.: The migration problem was considered in the workshop. We have a document with us that was provided to everybody. But, because of legal reasons it cannot be included in the norm. It has to be done through Municipal Ordinance because that is what the law provides for. A norm like this one is not a law. A norm can be maintained, changed, it can evolve with the situation. As we grow the norm would evolve and probably become more restrictive. The norm’s maintenance would be dependent on CETS. As CETS gets more experienced, we may be able to adapt, evolve these norms to some things that are more realistic. (…) This is not a law. This does not go to Congress. It becomes an executive [presidential] decree. CETS will provide maintenance to these norms. [/private]

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