Over the past decade, Belize has grown into a prime destination for American tourists and retirees. The sector has sprung back to near pre-pandemic levels despite significant contractions in 2020 and early 2021. Tourism is the leading economic sector, a major contributor to Gross Domestic Product, and source of foreign exchange.
A new port allowing larger cruise ships to dock in Belize City is under construction, estimated to be completed in late 2022 or early 2023. Belize has the highest debarkation rate for cruise ship passengers in the region, and the improved port facility hopes to drive cruise-based tourism even higher. The Minister of Tourism is focused on expanding overnight opportunities for high-end travelers, the bulk of which would be Americans. The Government of Belize is exploring public-private partnership in portions of the country that are underserved, including Belize City and the capital Belmopan.
There are several tourism-related opportunities for investment and trade, including in ecotourism, adventure, nature, cruise, and other nautical tourism-related activities. There are numerous archaeological and cultural sites, including several of the largest Mayan cities and temples in Central America, as well as one of the most expansive limestone cave systems in the Americas.
Hospitality and Tourism Industries
As an English-speaking destination near the United States, Belize is popular for American tourists and retirees. Americans comprise an estimated 70 percent of all tourists. Supporting the tourism industry is a major subsector of interest to U.S. businesses and investors, which includes accommodations and lodging, restaurant and hotel equipment, tourist attractions, and travel marketing agencies. Nature-based tourism that promotes sand and sea, Mayan and Garifuna culture, leisure pursuits, and adventure tourism are some of the key attractions for tourists. Belize is also increasingly recognized for its second-home buyers’ market, along with other countries in Central America, including Panama and Costa Rica. The Government of Belize has several tax and visa policies to encourage foreign retirees to reside in Belize.
Most of Belize’s tourism sector offers a boutique experience, often focusing on adventure and recreational or ecotourism activities. Opportunities for investment also exist in general merchandising; printing, marketing and promotional materials and supplies; “green” food packaging; construction equipment and supplies; and, most recently, in promoting health and safety measures.
In a fluctuating COVID-19 environment, tourism and related economic activity still remains the top industry for Belize. Opportunities directly and indirectly related to the tourism industry continue to open. These include ecotourism and adventure tourism, developing nature trails, and caving systems; beach resorts; cruise ship tourism facilities that include shopping centers, restaurants, cafes and bars; auto rental services; natural parks and adventure services (e.g. canoeing, horseback riding, zip-lining, etc.), nautical tourism including cruise tendering services, diving services, marinas, ports and services to attract tourists in vessels (yachts, sail boats, and charter boats). For example, the auto rental and water taxi sectors rely on tourists and the local farmers, poultry, and livestock producers, as well fishermen, depend on local restaurants where tourists consume fresh locally sourced products.
- Belize Tourism Board (BTB)
- Belize Tourism Industry Association
- Belize Hotel Association
- Government of Belize Procurement Portal