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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