I wanted to share our experience with you, as I feel someone needs to do something about what is going on on your island.
On October 4, 2017, my husband and I landed in Roatan, Honduras from the Liberty of the Seas, excited to spend a day and explore a beautiful island that we had once visited before. On our previous trip in 2010 from Carnival, we exited the gates and encountered some very polite and eager taxicab drivers with their assistants, but not once were we harassed or did we feel unsafe. We had a wonderful time in 2010 and we were excited to be returning to the island 7 years later. Unfortunately, this time was a completely different experience. My husband and I walked to the gates which were policed, to face an overeager and most threatening group of young men who basically fought over us for the 10 steps we took out of those gates. The men were harassing, were beyond aggressive and physically and verbally attacked each other. They were tripping each other while we were simply walking, wanting to just check out some of the local stores and maybe buy some items from local vendors. The words, “I’m going to “cap” you,” and “I’m gonna punch you in the face,” came out of these mens’ mouths while they were attempting to “walk with us” - we know that they were looking to be our “guides” which we did not ask for, so that they could demand money when we returned to the port gates. We literally took 10 steps forward before we stopped and turned back around to the port, where we spent our money, which very well could have been spent in the local community.
I feel that our experience is very important to share for many reasons. First, I have travelled numerous places throughout the world - throughout Europe, Thailand, the South Pacific, North America, Central America (including San Jose, Costa Rica, by myself), the Caribbean and much more …. and I have never in my life felt so threatened or scared that I would turn around and go back. Ever. Second, the actions by these men completely stopped us in our tracks and completely stopped us and others from giving our money to local vendors. Which leads me to my third very large concern for your island. With the last year’s devastating storms that have decimated many of the popular and favourable cruise ships ports, there could be many, many more people visiting your island. During this time, Roatan has huge potential to experience a massive economic growth and to experience a growth in tourism as more dollars could be spent on local goods and services, and to local vendors, and not just spent at the cruise ship ports. If tourists were simply given the comfort to walk safely and comfortably around local port towns, I would bet that, on average, they would spent at least $100 EACH on local goods and services - simple things like craft items, t-shirts, sarongs or even a local lunch or beer. I know that my husband and I each generally spend about $100 EACH. While we know that this doesn’t happen all the time, and there are a lot of tourists who hit the beaches and organized tours, there are many who simply like to walk around and enjoy the local culture. Let’s just imagine that, with the three cruise ships that were in port that day, that 1000 people from each ship simply wanted to walk around and buy things, and that they spend like my husband and I do. That is $300,000 in one day that your local vendors (outside of your ports) missed out on simply because you have a group of over eager and harassing young men who don’t understand how to control their behaviour or how to make people feel safe and welcome in your country. Over time, this adds up to way too many dollars that your local economy is missing out on.
It is unfortunate that we had this experience because we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves in 2010. Seven years later, and I would never come back. And I will also be cautioning everyone I know to not step foot on your island until there is a strong clean up in the behaviour that we experienced. Quite simply, with the police standing right there, these men should have been arrested for harassment. Or there needs to be a strong police presence (and ACTION) in local port towns that allow tourists to simply walk around, enjoy and spend their vacation money. These men and the experience that they are providing are hindering your economy and the huge potential that Roatan faces.