No longer the unknown backwater it once was, Belize is now a common destination for North American and European travelers. Tourism is one of the most critical economies in the country, responsible for about 1 in 7 jobs and 22 percent of the country’s GDP. The Belize Tourism Board (BTB, tel. 501/227-2420, www.travelbelize.org) has gotten the word “Belize” buzzing on the lips of millions of potential visitors who, only a few years ago, had never even heard of the tiny country.
Today, roughly 250,000 overnight visitors come to Belize each year; the majority (about 150,000) are from the United States.
In 2010, 664 registered hotels were providing jobs to nearly 5,000 Belizeans, and that’s not counting restaurant employees, guides, transport services, etc. Tourism has encouraged the preservation of vast tracts of forests and reefs; it has helped the Institute of Archaeology enhance and develop Belize’s archaeological sites as destinations, making possible astounding excavations and discoveries at the Caracol, Xunantunich, Lamanai, Altun Ha, and Cahal Pech ruins.
Of course, tourism can be a double-edged sword, and Belize’s founding father, George Price, warned against it. Price said tourism would make Belizeans indentured servants to rich foreigners.
© Joshua Berman and Avalon Travel from Moon Belize, 9th Edition