The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have arrived in Belize for their week-long tour of the Caribbean – their first joint overseas trip since the start of the pandemic.
The couple were all smiles as they stepped off the plane following an 11-hour flight from the UK.
They were welcomed by Belize’s governor general ahead of a meeting with Prime Minister Johnny Briceno.
But part of their tour has been axed amid reported opposition from locals.
The trip is to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this year, and will see William and Catherine also visit Jamaica and the Bahamas.
The royal couple were greeted by a guard of honour from the Belize Defence Force as they landed at Belize City’s Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport.
After military tunes were played by the unit’s band, William inspected the personnel.
Later in the day, Catherine and William met Belize Prime Minister Mr Briceno and his wife Rossana.
A Kensington Palace spokeswoman said the couple were “very much looking forward to visiting the Caribbean region” and to having the opportunity to thank communities across Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas for the support they had shown the Queen.
Local residents protest
However, a visit to the Akte ‘il Ha cacao farm in Indian Creek village, in the foothills of the Maya Mountains, has been removed from the couple’s schedule.
A protest opposing the trip took place on Friday, according to reports.
Belize media outlet Channel 7 said there was a claimed dispute between residents of Indian Creek village and Fauna and Flora International (FFI), which has William as patron, over land owned by the conservation organisation.
There were also reported to be concerns about the landing site earmarked for the Cambridges’ helicopter, with residents claiming they were not consulted about the location, a local football pitch.
A Kensington Palace spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that due to sensitive issues involving the community in Indian Creek, the visit has been moved to a different location – further details will be provided in due course.”
The Belize government said in a statement: “Indian Creek was one of several sites being considered. Due to issues in the village, the government of Belize activated its contingency planning and another venue has been selected to showcase Maya family entrepreneurship in the cacao industry.”
And a spokesman for FFI said the charity would “support the livelihoods, educational opportunities and the customary rights of local people” as part of its project in the area.
“We are establishing a dialogue with key stakeholders about the future ownership and management of land and want to work with – and in support of – the indigenous community, respecting traditional Mayan rights,” he added.
Among the highlights of the visit will be a sailing regatta in the Bahamas in honour of the Queen’s 70-year reign, which is expected to see the couple renew their friendly sporting rivalry when they take to the water.
Their tour will also see them celebrate Jamaica’s musical and sporting heritage.