Before investing in Belize, you might turn to everyone’s first tool of choice for investment research: Google. There, you may find websites that suggest it’s a haven for crime and should be avoided at all costs. Though there is crime in Belize, should tourists and investors avoid the entire country? Let’s explore this further with a comparison.
Eight people died and at least 57 were shot in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend 2016, according to an ABC News affiliate. Two years earlier, a YouGov poll revealed that 53 percent of Americans believed the city was dangerous due to the number of shootings there.
In reality, the city’s homicide rate had dropped to its lowest point in 50 years, according to the Chicago Police Department. In fact, NBC News said, fewer people were murdered during the first quarter of 2014 than any first quarter since 1958. Homicide on the North side hit a 20-year low, and in the Rogers Park neighborhood that spans the lakefront, homicide decreased more than 80 percent. Even the South and West sides, notorious for rivalry-related shootings, improved close to downtown.
NBC reported the discrepancy between perception and truth as a “Tale of Two Chicagos.” The areas that were impacted when jobs left town, however, became the city’s “murderous South and West sides, which are disproportionately black and brown,” per NBC News.
Would you avoid Chicago based on headlines? Probably not, but you would avoid areas where the majority of crimes occur. If you go to the ‘wrong’ side of town, you can expect an increased chance of becoming a crime victim.
The same holds true for Belize. I advise visitors to be cautious in certain areas of Belize City, which has the largest populace and a high unemployment rate and poverty. Naturally, more crime occurs in such areas.
Elsewhere in Belize, the crime rate is comparable to any other tourist destination, and tourists are safe other than a few petty crimes. Briefly, consider Mexico, where headlines about the drug cartel’s horrific crimes have flooded the media for years. As we know, those crimes are isolated to certain areas, so tourists continue to travel to other parts of Mexico each day.
Getting back to Belize, the United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) has advised travelers to avoid the south side of Belize City but said “major crime levels remain low” at tourist attractions, such as the Mayan Ruins and coastline resorts. Like Chicago’s downtown area, the economic situation is better in touristy areas, including islands such as Ambergris Caye, which has twice won the “World’s Best Islands” category in TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Islands.
If this doesn’t convince you that Belize is still a sound investment, consider the following.
Tourism is a vital part of the Belizean economy, accounting for 14 percent of its employment and 23 percent of its GDP. Hundreds of thousands of visitors travel to the country each year, most without incident.
The Belizean government established a “tourism police,” which patrols and oversees specific locations and attractions.
Belize tourism arrivals have skyrocketed since 2006, when they averaged about 85,000. Last year, they set record numbers, according to the San Pedro Sun’s reporting of a January 2016 Belize Tourism Board (BTB) press release.
“[E]xponential growth in the [overnight tourism] industry” included “seven straight months of arrival increases,” the article said. “September had an increase of 19.3 percent, October 22.1 percent, November 33 percent, and December [saw a] 22.5 percent increase. November’s 33 percent increase is the largest ever recorded for this month, which rarely goes above a 10 percent increase.”
Of course, Belize’s high season begins in December, when 63 percent of arrivals are shivering Americans, but December 2015 set a record high with 39,977 overnight visitors.
Why the sudden influx? Southwest Airlines and Panama-based Copa Airlines added flights to Belize in October and December, respectively, the paper said. Copa’s first flight resulted in more than a 50 percent increase in South American tourists compared to the previous year.
“Airport arrivals accounted for the majority of the overnight arrivals, with around 75.02 percent of the overall overnight figure,” the paper said.
Considering these numbers, not only should crime reports not scare you off from investing in Belize, you should make it a priority. Major airlines and hotels would not continue to expand into a small market if there were a major crime problem. My family and I have lived in Belize for over 10-years, and in all that time, we have always felt safe calling it our home.
We chose to move to Belize for the quality of life and safety was a fundamental concern for us while making our decision to relocate. But, here we are, 10-years later, and I wouldn’t feel safer anywhere else with my family than in Ambergris Caye, Belize. Whether you are either looking to invest or an exotic place to call home, why not consider Belize.