Belize Boasts Record-Breaking Tourism in 2017 . . . AGAIN

Belize's 'secret' past

"If the world had ends, (Belize) would certainly be one of them. It is not on the way from anywhere to anywhere else. It has no strategic value. It is all but uninhabited," wrote Aldous Huxley in Beyond the Mexique Bay in 1934. 

Who knew that in the following century it would be these characteristics of obscurity and population scarcity that would play a central role in Belize's BOOMING popularity!? The enigmatic reputation of the tropical lowlands and brilliant cayes that now comprise Belize has been around for centuries. Spanish explorers were weary to come close to its miles of treacherous barrier reef and shallow waters due to threat of shipwreck, and the lure of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula was enough to distract conquistadors from venturing too far south.

Then one day a few rogue Britons arrived in search of hardwoods to export. Since they came with no religious or political agenda, the Mayans tolerated them enough to let them live . . . and well British Honduras came and went and here we are today in the present day commonwealth of Belize.

Because Belize was largely overlooked for so long, today we can enjoy its stunning natural geography as "mother nature's best kept secret" like very few other places on the planet.

Where the HELL is Belize?

But — where the hell is Belize — you ask? Belize is on the Caribbean Coast of Central America, just south of Mexico, east of Guatemala, and north of Honduras. It's only 2-3 hours direct flight from Houston or Miami. And to think — it's been there the whole time!

This wiseguy phrase, "Where the Hell is Belize?" was not long ago so common that the gift shops in San Pedro Town used to stock quirky shirts with the saying, next to others toting "Better Belize It" "Unbelizeable" or "Don't Stop Belizin'." 

Although the latter three are still peddled about the island in all their kitschy glory, now in 2017, after two decades of steady tourism growth, it seems that "where the hell is Belize?" no longer resonates quite like it used to.

The t-shirts with the saying are hardly as ubiquitous as they once were — though we did find one online from a website whose self-proclaimed mission is to "find the most insane, rare, and original vintage pieces that truly are a piece of history." Get your very own piece of history here, where this "Where the Hell is Belize? 1980's Ringer Tee" can be yours at the ambitious price of $109 — and that's USD.

The Belize Boom 

Belize is a country only 36 years of age and is the most sparsely populated country in Central America. Its population is currently around just 375,000, and it's only 68 miles wide and 180 miles long. But Belize is developing, tourism growth is strong, and the overall population is growing as young families expand and American and Canadian baby boomers adopt Belize as their retirement home.

According to the Statistical Institute of Belize, in Belize's most popular travel destination, San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, the population has almost tripled during the first decade of the century. Currently it's estimated at just over 17,000.

In the past five years, Belize has seen dirt roads be paved, highways expand, and the country's only international airport build a longer runway plus a whole new wing to accommodate four major airlines now arriving in Belize for the first time.

In addition, the first international luxury brand has arrived (yours truly, Mahogany Bay Village, Curio — A Collection by Hilton,) and celebrity investments such as Leonardo DiCaprio's Blackadore Caye project are further solidifying Belize's place on the map and minds of the popular culture. Accordingly, Belize property values are enjoying a bullish but steady investment market.

And in the first quarter of 2017 the Belize Tourism Board put out a press release brandishing the newest record-breaking tourism statistics — March 2017 tourist arrivals tallied up to 44,400 — the most of any month recorded, ever! But this isn't so surprising, as most every year tourism totals stamp out the same month of the previous year, so regularly that the upward trend has become undeniable.

To give a bit more history, in 1995 there was a documented 130,809 overnight visitors to Belize — and in 2012 that number more than doubled to 277,136 (not including cruise ship day visitors). Each year our tourism numbers creep up, this year we're expecting nearly 400,000 overnight visitors!

It's expected that property values will continue the same trajectory, as well as occupancy rates in hotels and guest houses. Fortunately for Ambergris Caye, the island continues to receive the lion's share of all tourist arrivals in the country, at about 70%.

Most years these past two decades in Belize have shown an improvement over the previous year's tourism numbers.

"Belize City, Monday, 10th April 2017: Even following such unprecedented growth in 2016, the latest statistics for the first quarter of 2017 indicate that tourism arrivals in Belize continue to register a small but steady increase. It is expected that these increasing trends will continue both in the overnight and cruise sectors for the remainder of 2017 and beyond." — Belize Tourism Board

The first quarter of the past three years illustrates the Belize tourism boom of the 21st Century.

Why Belize?

Despite Belize's relatively small marketing budget as compared to other Caribbean competitors, Belize continues to develop into one of the most desirable eco-travel and adventure destinations in the Caribbean. The country's niche markets include diving, extreme adventures, fly fishing, birding, cuisine, and weddings / honeymoons.

But in the end, no matter how clever the marketing outreach, it's the product that must speak for itself. And Belize does just that. Visit and see for yourself! 

Laura Balis