It’s no surprise to me by now that whenever things seem to be humming along here, something will inevitably show up to shake things up!
The last couple months have seen a lot of changes here on Roatan, especially in regards to the diving industry. Crackdowns on dive instructors working illegally (this is a can of worms I’m not interested in arguing about today – but to all the hecklers: I have my residency so save your diatribes for someone else), massive fee increases and new requirements for operating permits for dive centers, and a new tax plan from our illustrious mayor which currently includes a $10,000 USD permit fee for foreign course directors and tec instructors just to be able to train dive pros (not counting the $2,500-3,000 that residency costs, and you need to get that first to be allowed to work, which can take upwards of a year). I don’t even make $10,000 USD a year as a dive instructor here and I can’t imagine these guys are making 10x what I’m making, so that number seems pretty creative. Local course directors and tec instructors (of which there are none) have a $2,000 USD fee. There seemed to be a bit of backpedaling my the municipality as the original interpretation was ALL dive professionals including instructors and divemasters, which was not corrected publicly until well after the plan was released. The backlash in the community was massive, and now they have clarified (after witnessing an uproar) that it isn’t for instructors and divemasters.
Perhaps the municipality is forgetting that these course directors are the ones training the dive pros on Roatan, local and foreigners both, who bring dive tourists to Roatan to spend money in our local economy. They also train numerous Hondurans as dive pros for free as part of giving back to the community. The course directors here are already legal residents and pay tax, so this is really an affront. Course directors and tec instructors located on the east end of Roatan in a different municipality pay ZERO as this is a municipal law. I foresee a lot of people moving their business east, or leaving altogether for a friendlier island, or course prices going way up so they can cover these fees. The low prices are one of the reasons that people come to Roatan to get trained, so that will dissuade potential pro candidates, who come here for months and spend a lot of money on rent, bars & restaurants, groceries, utilities, etc. I also doubt the course directors will be able to continue to train locals for free as they will have to take on more paying students to cover the fees. Not good.
These numbers are absolutely outrageous for locals and foreigners alike. No one here makes that kind of money. Targeting the largest tourism activity on the island and issuing these ‘fees’ which penalize the people helping to bring tourists to the island and having them return again and again (and these tourists also rent hotels, eat at restaurants, go fishing and ziplining, take tours, etc.) is one of the stupidest moves I’ve seen here on Roatan, and that’s saying a lot. No permit fees for bartenders, fishing guides, zipline guides, etc. all of whom work in tourism and make decent money and tips. There are 150 pages of new taxes for the municipality and this is only the beginning – many other sectors are affected.
I normally try to keep quasi-political stuff off my site as I end up receiving threats online and in real life, but this latest batch of efforts that seems to aim to expunge foreigners from Roatan or penalize them for bringing money to the island is getting to the point where I want people to know about it – I want TOURISTS to know about it – so people can make an informed decision about visiting the island and what activities they’re going to participate in. Right now the businesses on Roatan have formed a committee and are pursuing legal action against the municipality on various grounds to try to get these new changes revoked. The mayor has also allegedly just decided to give himself and his councilors a large raise which is ludicrous. Some hotly contested items with the new taxes have been put on hold for two weeks while they try sort it out. The mayor has agreed to have a meeting in two weeks with affected sectors. In the meantime, their social media person has blocked anyone voicing a disagreeing opinion about the taxes or a less-than-stellar opinion of the mayor on their Facebook page, myself included. (Uh, guys? That’s not really how free speech works. We aren’t in Cuba or China here…or are we?) Thankfully I have more platforms to speak on than just their Facebook page 🙂
While Roatan and the diving industry sort out their battle, I’m taking some time off the island to see where it all ends up. I don’t want to be somewhere where I’m putting in so much time and energy to promote the island/diving industry and help visitors have the best time so that they come back again and tell their friends, and having it returned by essentially trying to force my fellow members in the dive industry off the island (or at least out of the west side where they have been established for many years), which in turn will affect the entire diving industry here.
I’m heading to Canada this week for a couple months and then I’ll see what’s happening here after that. If they’ve sorted it out, I’ll be back. If not, I won’t. It’s a slap in the face to the diving industry by Roatan, especially after I and many others have spent time and energy helping to train locals in diving for free.
I haven’t been ‘home’ for about a year and a half, so I’m really looking forward to seeing my family and friends. And, obviously, eating EVERYTHING. I have some other career paths that I’m going to be looking into while I’m there, and I am taking some time off work to complete some courses that I’ve been trying to work on for months. I will also be trying not to freeze into a solid block, as it’s the dead of winter in my hometown and I don’t even own any pants.
So, with all that being said, let’s get on to the roundup for months 40 + 41:
1. Gratuitous diving photo:
Let’s be clear – if you give me your camera underwater to take photos of you, you’re gonna end up with a ridiculous Rika selfie somewhere on that camera. Guaranteed.
2. Posts from the last month(s):
I managed to squeak out quite a few, and was really happy with the quality of the posts I’ve been producing lately. I hope you guys enjoyed these. All were shared extensively on social media and are quickly becoming my most popular posts!
- Roatan Review: Blackwater Night Diving with West End Divers
- GUEST POST – My Dream Underwater List
- Roatan Review: Barefoot Cay + Barefoot Divers
- My Diving Christmas Wishlist
- What Type of Diver Are You?
- GUEST POST – How to Pack For Your First Diving Adventure
- What to Do on Roatan: A 1-Week Itinerary
- Dutty Love, Drunk in Love and Delusional Love: Dating on the Island
- What to Do on Roatan: A 3-Day Itinerary
3. Coolest thing I’ve found on the internet this month:
Um, kitchen island with a tiny ocean? Yes, please. Take my money.
Guys, make sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter … there’s lots of extras posted there that don’t make it onto the blog. I also have Google+ if anyone even uses that? And I’m on Bloglovin’, so you can follow me there too! Plus it makes me try to post more than once a month. So there’s that.
Unfortunately, this post has been edited several times as new information becomes available about the new taxes on Roatan. I’m always trying to update it based on current info, so I apologize for the changes but it’s important that I post accurate information, as slander and libel laws in Honduras are taken much more seriously than in North America and I’ve already been threatened. Bet you guys are excited to read all I’ll have to say once I leave the island for good 🙂