Real Estate Property Investment Series: Focus Belize 2007

Daisy Ratnasari

Belize has all the potential to be one of the fastest moving, most exciting, multi-layered emerging property markets in the world. After all one cannot deny the nation’s intense attraction for holiday makers nor its almost inimitable appeal for retirees seeking a low tax, low cost, safe and well developed country in which to live…

…and yet, and yet…Belize has not yet managed to promote its appeal widely enough nor successfully enough to attract the numbers of holiday makers, wealthy retirees or even investors that it so deserves and most certainly requires if it is to drive its economy forward, tackle poverty and manage its large trade deficit and foreign debt

This means that Belize is not achieving its property market potential and 2007 will most likely be another slow burning year for real estate in Belize.

Now, that’s not to say that profits cannot be realised and released in the short term – it just means it is harder to find any form of rapid market movement and the best investment strategy that can be applied to the Belizean real estate economy at the moment is a long term one where land and real estate are banked, properties are held and maintained, where possible they are let out for income acquisition, but most importantly they are bought at today’s low prices to be held until Belize reaches the point it surely must, whereby it is recognised as one of the most attractive places in the world to live, work, visit or retire.

In terms of the efforts being made to improve the profile of Belize internationally, the Belizean government seems relatively committed to marketing the nation’s attraction as a tourism destination for example, which is positive and necessary especially because the Belizean economy is largely reliant on tourism. However, the tourism based economy is not growing particularly fast and neither has Belize developed much as an attractive tax sheltering economy which is the other side of the economy that the government is trying to promote. Furthermore the majority of the retirees coming to live in Belize are from North America with European buyers practically oblivious to the charms of Belize.

So what’s the problem then? Well, if one looks at the World Travel and Tourism Council’s statistics on Belize, its travel and tourism based economy should have grown by about 6% in 2006 which is okay, but the WTTC predicts that annual average increases from 2007 onwards stand at only about 4.6%, which is just not enough if Belize is to become a player in the world travel and tourism market.

Part of the problem seems to relate to the amount of government spending that goes into the travel and tourism sector. Currently the government spends 12.2% of its total budget on tourism – which may sound like a lot but when you realize that the government considers and requires tourism to be Belize’s number one foreign exchange earner shouldn’t they be willing to put more in to get more back? The WTTC don’t rate the chances of this situation changing much in 2007 with their predictions seeing government spending expanding to just 12.7% over the next 9 years.

So sustained efforts aimed at raising the potential of Belize as an offshore haven of note, a retirement location of distinction and a tourism destination of broad and varied appeal are not in place and this is what lets Belize down as a potentially profitable property investment hotspot in 2007, but because all of the fundamentals exist for Belize to have one of the most exciting emerging property markets in the world investors should not ignore Belize. The nation will continue to be a slow burner throughout 2007 and beyond until the wider world awakens to the potential embodied by Belize – which it surely will.

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