Belize and The Sharing Economy in 2017

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I believe that Belizeans are unaware of how the emergence of the so-called “sharing economy” is affecting them. We know that it may be the greatest technological disruption the travel industry has seen as of late, however, it is only seen as something that is affecting developed countries like the US. We see in the news – the various litigations between cities and Uber/Airbnb and we think that it is only a big city problem. We think it doesn’t matter if Airbnb encourages gentrification and raises real estate prices in places like New York.

However, of course this can be tied back to problems Belizeans will also have. Lately, I have been hearing a lot of complaints about how Belize tourism visitor numbers keep rising but hotels are actually seeing low occupancy rates. There is speculation that the government may be making the tourism numbers up, however, I believe that the issue is that apartment/room sharing sites like Airbnb and VRBO are taking up many of the visitors. The last time I checked there were over 200 rentals. You may say that this isn’t a problem because everyone deserves a little side hustle, however, investing in a hotel is not a minor investment and if it goes belly up the ramifications are widespread. Hotels pay taxes and follow certain regulations, which many individuals who list their places on sites like Airbnb avoid. Yet people who stay at Airbnb sites use the same resources from the town or city, which are subsidized by taxes.

The point of me sharing the above is not because I want Airbnb to disappear, it’s so that you are more cognizant of what is happening. I don’t have a solution, except, to suggest that if you have your place listed on Airbnb, pay your taxes, especially those small hotels that list their places on Airbnb, or at least donate something to your local BTIA chapter. I’m certain free meat pies would encourage members to show up to the monthly meetings and hopefully contribute ideas that may help the tourism industry.

Anyway, time for some good news – see the 2016 winners of the BTB Tourism Awards.



Reader Interactions


  1. Judy duPlooy says

    Hi, Lorenzo,

    Karen Bevans informed us at a meeting last Monday that she will be meeting with AirBnB people on April 11. A number of cities and even states, have managed to get AirBnB to collect taxes for them and to make sure that people advertising on their sites are licensed. Of course, BTB would most likely be charged for this service, but it would definitely be worth it.
    Karen is aware of this situation and hopefully, will be able to negotiate in our favor. Maybe everyone should write to BTB to let them know how important this is to us.
    Thanks for this timely article.

    • Rebecca says

      Hi guys, The bookings and the locations on AirBnB are pretty transparent – and the BTB is quite a large organization. It would be GREAT to get information/date from AirBnB in the future – but I’d think it would be pretty easy to “spot check” and make sure that places are registered…and paying taxes.

      You just need to go to the website for information AND booking data. If they started with one out of ten listings…it would be a very do-able task.

      SO many people are travelling now with AirBnB and VRBO – so many that I talk to in San Pedro. Having “your own place” or “living like a local” seems to appeal to many. Perhaps it’s hotels’ job to show how they are adding extra value? What they can do for you that is worth the (potentially) extra dollars?

      • Lorenzo Gonzalez says

        I agree, Rebecca, it is manageable to look into this. As per Judy, it looks like the BTB plans to do something about it – it will be interesting to see what happens.
        And in regards to your “the hotels need to show how they offer extra value” comment, yes, that is critical but they are struggling to do so because they are so out-of-touch with reality. Many don’t even have a marketing budget, yet alone dedicate the industry standard of 10%.

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