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Turning Belize into Margaritaville…Is this the Direction We Want to Go?

If something is good, more of it is better.  Change and embracing change is always a good thing, right?  Progress, progress, progress.   Don’t stand in the way of progress.

Belize, boosted by the growing world economy, the huge increase in those traveling and how special and amazing Belize is (I’ve written about some of the reasons here), is surging ahead in the tourism numbers.  Double digit increases for the last three years!

The government has been quite active touting this growth as well as their own environmental foresight and progress.  Belize’s UNESCO site, our barrier reef, was removed off the danger list!  Belize bans  oil exploration to protect its coral reefs.*  Last year, the country announced that it phasing out plastic bags and single use plastics by April 2019 **.

Belize, on the books at least, has some of the most progressive environmental laws  in the world.

* Well kind of…leaders were the ones who started the exploration in 2017 and then THE PEOPLE spoke so loudly that they forced a stop on exploration and drilling.  This ban is a moratorium only and not a legally binding law.

**From what I can tell, there has been no movement to get this done at all.  I see just as many plastic bags, forks and styrofoam containers when shopping as I always did.

Laws that do exist often contain a major loophole called “ministerial discretion” – this discretion can be used at any time and with zero transparency.

Laws are great but without enforcement?  They are just paper.

Belize is getting lots of recognition.  And that is AWESOME.  Who I am to think that a place so great would stay hidden forever?  I mean…I spend a bunch of my time telling others how great it is to live here.

Just this week, Belize has appeared on numerous lists for 2019.  MUST VISIT lists from the LA Times “The top 10 of places to visit in 2019, from Belize to Tasmania and Napa/Sonoma in between”, London’s Financial Times “Where to Go In 2019:  An Insiders’ Guide” and Yahoo Travel all included Belize.

The word is out.  WAY OUT.

I think that the Financial Times and it’s super cool list that includes WAY off the beaten path places like Eritrea and Cambodia and Rwanda nails it when they say “Actor Leonardo Di Caprio is creating a much-anticipated green retreat at Blackadore Caye (though the opening date remains unclear) and Four Seasons is due to open in 2021, but for now the laidback communities on Belize’s coasts and cayes remain much less commercialized than the rest of the Caribbean”.

Makes me think…

Change isn’t always good.  What if we are changing what makes Belize special and desirable?  What if there is change with no proper infrastructure or plan (or a plan that is just totally ignored)?  If we open 1000 new hotel rooms without a capable water or sewage system, what do we have?

Perhaps we should be identifying and amplifying what makes Belize SO desirable rather than trying to change it into Margaritaville.

And by Margaritaville, I am not picking Jimmy Buffett or his music, I am highlighting a type of resort or restaurant that could be anywhere…nondescript, all inclusive, predictable “island inspired Margaritaville lifestyle”.  A place more about the brand than the actual location.

But it’s not by chance that I use Margaritaville here.

MARGARITAVILLE  just announced that they will be re-opening the old Sueno del Mar at 12 miles north in the coming years.

SO now the brand is pasted on everything from blenders to casinos to retirement villages to Broadway and now Belize?

So away from that one new resort, do we just want to pack this island with as many hotel rooms that people are willing to build?  As many docks, as many golf carts, as many people?

I think we need to be really careful.  Really REALLY careful.

When we are just another sunny beach spot on a long list of sunny beach spots, like Puerto Rico or Cancun or Nassau or even Florida, we are competing for very different tourists…who are looking for way lower price points.  And who are on to the next sunny beach spot with the next good deal.

Just thinking out loud…and thinking about what I can do about it.

Patronize local establishments.  

Talk about what is important to you. 

Lisa Shoman, a senator in Belize, just posted something on Facebook a few days ago and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Don’t let people try to shame you on social media by saying that “you just complain” or “All you do is rant on Facebook about problems”.

Sure you don’t want to be the guy that is a constant stream of negativity or a mean, irrational bully but media of all kinds are used to illuminate issues, discuss and form opinions, to see that you are not alone.

It can be very worthwhile and is often the first step to action.  Talk about what is important to you with other people too.  Doesn’t all need to be online.

Vote on issues.  Hold those who govern accountable.

We often hear government officials saying that they are NOT responsible for things – “not MY jurisdiction”.  That sounds like passing the buck to me.

I will stop there.  For now 🙂


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9 thoughts on “Turning Belize into Margaritaville…Is this the Direction We Want to Go?

  1. anonymooseSPmQQse

    jimmy’s new venture…..who cares…. ambergris caye and especially san pedro town…. have already been destroyed….turned into a paradise-lost…. sustainable destruction……that…is the focus…quite simply, for foreigner profit margins.
    it often is the people who do really care , who complain/show concern.

  2. DMM

    Wow, Could the government have plans in allowing the undeveloped north Ambergris Caye area being turned into a cluster of all-inclusive resorts? This might explain why there is interest in building an international airport 14 miles north of San Pedro.This is what happened to the Punta Cana area of the Dominican Republic. I was in the Punta Cana area on the east end of DR twenty six years ago and all there was at that time there were miles and miles of undeveloped property and some of the most beautiful beaches I had ever seen. Look at that area now, there are miles and miles of all-inclusives, one after another! I agree with your position but unfortunately money talks pretty loud.

  3. Robert Dino

    I think having the infrastructure in place first is very important . Garbage removal especially , on my last visit ( 2018 March ) I could not believe what I was seeing ….. the south end of the island had turned into a dump ! My ocean front lot had become a dumping ground , the road to the lot a land fill ! I think there are far more worry sum things to concern our selves with than sharing the island with people who want a little “ Belizan “ I personally am far more concerned about the island turning into one huge garbage dump ! I’m coming back in January and I will be taking pictures of ALL the illegal dumping and posting . All that garbage is leeching into the water destroying everything it touches . I would rather have a clean and tidy Margaritaville than a garbage dump that’s just ours .
    That’s my two cents …..
    Happy New Year Everybody , all the best in the coming year


  4. Cathi Barnett Bray

    I’m a travel agent who has actually discouraged some clients from going to Belize – because they were looking for “Cancun,” and I want people going to Belize for what it is – NOT what it’s not. I can’t believe the changes to places like Secret Beach in just the past year. Yes, Belize needs better infrastructure, and those who bring the new resorts will insist on that and will pay for that, but how many places in the world can you still go to and step back in time? (My husband always said when we lived in San Ignacio that we lived in “Mayberry RFD” – like being in small town in the ’50’s – everybody knows everybody, and where can you experience that anymore??) I’ve written about this for an online publication and really don’t want to see Belize become like so many other places you can already go to in the Caribbean. Belize is unique – and while I have no doubt it will eventually go the way of so many other destinations, unfortunately, I’m so glad I got to experience it before that happens – and I wish everyone could.

  5. Chris (Thumper) W

    I am truly sad to read this post and the pictures you posted on your return to south San Pedro. My friends and I are looking forward to vacationing in Amberguise Caye for the first time in May/August and snorkel / Scuba and relax. To see/hear the overdevelopment happening there is disheartening. My wife and I have been all over the Caribbean and hate seeing the once beautiful Islands and beaches completely succumbing to over tourism. While some must happen to keep the economy moving forward…. quick booms often lead to quick falls because the reason tourist visit is now replaced with what they are tying to get away from.
    I will be sad to see all the construction going on! But Happy it is nowhere near completion when we visit. I hope the residents of Amberguise Caye can unite and slow or stop the explosion of commercialism.

  6. Brian

    Progress and sustainability can thrive together, however a complete change in the approach must be incorporated and that is a sequence of needs ideology. The level of situations and problems must be addressed with concise solutions and followed up the implications and needs for the changes. What I have found in the many visits and discussions I have with “the people” of a location facing such issues is that they get it. The unfortunate outcome is when you begin discussing such solutions are the hidden agendas that arise once you approach the “experts”, or the so called “leaders”. They do not want to hear that they are wrong, or what you propose affects their way of living, etc, etc.

    A development such as Margaritaville, or the proposed Leonardo DiCaprio eco-resort on Blackadore Caye etc. have the responsibility, in my opinion, to connect with such a solution based approach and to resource transparent organizations along side the development, and sadly not government driven, etc. to make the difference.

    Just my two cents worth, but such changes need to begin being incorporated or as I say “Ignorance and greed will destroy all that is good”.

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