A Case for Major Hotel Chains in Belize

Hilton Belize, Mahogany Bay Resort in Ambergris Caye
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The advent of Trumpism has led to the rise of protectionism in the U.S. Put America first and ONLY support American business they rally.

In policy terms, I have seen protectionism in Belize for quite some time. For many years, many of Bowen and Bowen’s products had an exclusive monopoly in Belize. I recall when I was a kid, Novelo’s Distributors, who had distributed Pepsi products for many years, had to close its business because their license was revoked. This, of course, alluded to Sir Barry Bowen’s significant political clout — an influence that made Bowen and Bowen very successful.

Hilton Worldwide

Mahogany Bay Resort, Ambergris Caye
The Great House, Mahogany Bay Resort

Last year, Mahogany Bay Resort and Beach Club in Ambergris Caye became part of Curio – A Collection by Hilton Worldwide. With this announcement, someone I know posted on Facebook how disgusted they were that Belize was getting a major hotel chain.

The post got a lot of attention, with many Belizeans supporting its position and making comments such as “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 statement is something that Belizeans have been increasingly clamoring for. I understand their frustration since some foreign companies just take profits out of the country and don’t re-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 ever been and set up a sea kayaking outpost on Glovers Reef.

Yes, small businesses owned 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.



Reader Interactions


  1. Lee and Mike says

    Maybe good news, bad news. Belize has a charm that isn’t found too many other places anymore and we love it that way. Tourism is good, but we certainly don’t want it to be Cancun or any of those overpriced cookie cutter vacation destinations. Belize has so much to offer with its natural resources and lovely people that it should be promoted and loved, but without exploitation.

    • Lorenzo Gonzalez says

      Agreed, Lee and Mike. You described what makes Belize unique and whoever is creating a new hotel/ tour operator would know this once they do market research. TBH, rationally speaking, even if Belize attempted to become similar to Cancun, economies of scale would not permit it. Cancun’s airport receives approximately 25 million passengers a year and Belize’s airport receives approximately 500,000.