The advent of Trumpism has led to the rise of protectionism in the US. Put America first and ONLY support American businesses they say.
In policy terms, I have seen this in Belize for quite a while. For many years, many of Bowen and Bowen’s products have had an exclusive monopoly in Belize. I remember when I was a kid, Novelo’s distributors, who had distributed Pepsi products for many years, had to close its distribution store because their license was revoked. This, of course, alluded to Sir Barry Bowen significant political clout – influence that has made Bowen and Bowen very successful.
Last year, Mahogany Bay Resort in Ambergris Caye became part of Curio – A Collection by Hilton Worldwide. With this announcement, someone I know posted on their facebook wall how disgusted they were that Belize was getting a major hotel chain. The post got a lot of attention with many Belizeans supporting the position and making comments like hotel chains will damage Belize’s tourism product, we don’t want Belize to become Cancun, and only Belizeans should own tourism businesses. The last part of that statement is something that Belizeans have been increasingly clamoring for. I understand their frustration since some foreign companies just take the profits away and don’t invest in the community, but to say that only Belizeans should own tourism businesses is very naive.
Things are never black and white
Belize’s tourism industry would not be where it is without the help of expats who have made Belize their home. Some examples include Marty Casado, who introduced the world to Belize when he created one of the first Belize travel websites; Mick and Lucy Fleming, who pioneered ecotourism in Belize; Jerry McDermott, who brought scuba diving to Belize; and Leif and Denver, who ventured beyond where many Belizeans have and set up a sea kayaking outpost in Glovers Reef.
Yes, small businesses by expats are not in the same boat as multinational corporations. However, my point is that innovation often comes from outside, which is especially the case for developing countries. It is proven that foreign companies increase the productivity of domestic businesses, as new ideas and management techniques are introduced. Also, the success of new companies lures others to enter the market and/ or incentivizes old businesses to innovate and develop new products and services (economics 101).
Getting back to the topic of Mahogany Bay Resort, I propose that its introduction is a good thing. Belize has been battling with slow growth in overnight tourism and a major hotel chain will help with this. Hilton Worldwide has the knowledge, experience, and extensive networks to tap into new markets and customers that Belize as a whole country has not been able to do. And best of all, they have enough capital to pursue the above-mentioned activities!
Naturally, there will be challenges that come with Belize having major hotel chains, but if I have made one thing clear, I hope it’s that clamoring for protectionism isn’t the solution.