Power of the Brand
Tourism in Belize has significantly taken off and has again reached record-breaking levels underscoring Belize as a premier vacation destination in the region. The latest statistics show that Belize surpassed the half a million mark, welcoming a total of 503,177 overnight visitors in 2019. This represents more than 100% growth in the sector in the past decade (up from 241,119 in 2010). The industry accounts for a large portion of the country’s economy, with Ambergris Caye generating over two-thirds of the revenue. And the government is keen on using the Caye to continue to build a reputation for the country, inviting brand name developers to build luxury accommodations to increase job opportunities and bring more awareness to Belize as a travel destination.
In the past several years the demographic of tourists has been changing from young, gap-year backpackers looking for hostel style or B-N-B type accommodation, to older, more refined guests looking for comfort and style and coming with a much higher budget. They are skipping the flights to Bora Bora and the Maldives to take a shorter flight to English-speaking country Belize, where they can enjoy a very similar vacation environment – such as an impressive barrier reef teeming with marine life, world-class diving and water sports, sunny tropical weather, jungles full of ancient ruins and history, chartering private boat cruises, and island hopping.
A few luxury restaurants have been around for several years on Ambergris Caye but now the choices are growing. Grand Caribe opened their rooftop bar and restaurant Rain in September of 2014 where, according to their website, “Chef Hugo combines his Argentine, Spanish & Caribbean cooking experience to create, new & different dishes”. Some local chefs are offering luxury and personalized eating experiences, like the “Chef’s Table” dinner put on by Chef Maresha at Pirates Treasure Bar where she prepares a three-course dinner in front of a handful of guests for an intimate and luxury dining experience.
Wine de Vine opened in 2002 and is an upscale wine bar and deli where you can enjoy all kinds of imported reds, whites, and roses while snacking on a custom charcuterie and cheese board or pick up specialty items to build one at home. There is also an upscale chocolate boutique, The Belize Chocolate Company, where you can buy decadent truffles, bonbons, body creams, and even take a chocolate-making class!
Looking at accommodations, some of the more prominent luxury hotels and resorts that have been on the island for years and are gaining more visitors include: Matachica, Las Terrazas, Grand Caribe, Victoria House, and The Phoenix. In regard to Belize’s approach to luxury real estate, Michael Crawford, Four Seasons’ President of portfolio management and owner relations, says in an interview with Bloomberg that, “destinations take time to build”, and that the, “Belizean government built theirs slowly but intentionally, creating a desirable real estate market with a fairly low cost of entry and no estate or capital gains taxes…they understand that when you draw luxury ownership, the market grows and luxury tourism follows”.
Belize also offers an attractive retirement program for qualified individuals that has also brought a number of wealthy foreigners into the country to become full time residents, who are adding to the demand for higher-end offerings. More visitors means more need for accommodations.
From the booming tourism trends, market speculation, and initiatives of world-renowned brand name hoteliers, it is obvious that Belize is the new hot destination for any kind of travel. While the market is hot for luxury brands, opportunities in the mid-range brands are rapidly expanding. This largely ignored segment of the market serves the greatest number of travelers, the middle class.
For both developers and individuals looking to purchase vacation homes or excellent investment properties, a Best Western Studio Suite, could be a good fit. The limited number of cost focus, branded hotel rooms offers up higher occupancy and ADR than a comparable nonbranded product. The opportunity provided by the emerging branded hotel market in Belize, especially in this early stage, is not one to pass up!