Belize is one of the smallest, least populated, and newest countries in the Central America and the western hemisphere. Belize’s upscale tourism offerings have grown significantly in the last decade. Its reputation as a laid-back, unassuming destination is apparent in Belize’s luxury market, which many consider to be in its own elegantly rustic class within the Caribbean and Central America. Resorts in Belize are small, with 70% of the approximately 550 licensed hotels having 10 rooms or less. Compared to the glitzier destinations, certain five-star service standards may be lower in Belize, where the unofficial motto is “Go Slow, Mon!”. Due largely to the small size of the market, international hotel chains are generally unheard of in Belize, with the exception being the Best Western and the Radisson. Most Belizean hotels are independently owned and managed, resulting in each property being an expression of the owner’s dreams and visions. Belize is an active destination, and guests at even the most luxurious resorts invariably visit the barrier reef, explore the Mayan ruins, and paddle and hike the protected areas. All these opportunities create a uniquely intimate experience.
Tourism remains an extremely healthy industry for Belize, and is a key area of government focus. In 1998, The Belizean government began a concerted effort to raise Belize’s profile to the world’s traveler market. Beginning in 2003 and continuing until the present, Belize has consistently earned a place among the top 20 travel destinations in the world (source: iExplore.com). Because of this focused recognition and continued focus, there has been a dramatic rise in tourism in the nation. From 1994 to 2010 cruise ship passenger traffic grew from 13,000 arrivals to over 850,000. And even excluding cruise ship passenger traffic total tourism arrivals still grew over 7.5% from 2002 to 2009 indicating that Belize is continuing to thrive as a major tourist destination (source: Belize Tourism Board).
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) ranks Central America as the second-fastest growing tourism destination in the world over the period of 2000 – 2005.