The Power of Brands Can Propel Offshore Investors

Michael K. Cobb

[home with sold sign in front]

The power of brands can propel offshore investors and Belize offers a prime example.

Tourism has soared after the COVID-19 crisis has started to wane, underscoring Belize’s position as a premier vacation destination in the region. The country is once again headed to record-breaking levels of tourism.

In 2019, tourism in Belize surpassed the half-million mark by welcoming a total of 503,177 overnight visitors. This total represents more than 100% growth in the sector during the past decade, compared to 241,119 tourists in 2010.

Tourism accounts for a large portion of the country’s economy, with tiny Ambergris Caye, specifically, generating a whopping two-thirds of the revenue.  The government of Belize is keen to continue using the Caye to foster a reputation for the country, inviting brand-name developers to build luxury accommodations, increase job opportunities and bring even more awareness to Belize as a travel destination.

The Power of Brands Can Propel Offshore Investors: Location

Investors should heed the adage here: Location. Location. Location. When looking for cash flow and appreciation, owning the right property is key. Timing is critical, too.

Catching a country in the middle stages of a strong upswing in popularity and demand is the bull’s eye for “path-of-progress” investing. Layer on true global diversification and you have a trifecta of reasons to dig deeper and learn more.

The Power of Brands Can Propel Offshore Investors: Demographics

The demographic of tourists to Belize is changing from young, gap-year backpackers looking for cheap hostels or bed and breakfast-type accommodations, to older, more refined guests seeking comfort and style, as well as bringing bigger budgets. Seasoned travelers are skipping the long flights to Bora Bora and the Maldives to take a relatively short flight to English-speaking Belize, which offers an equally spectacular vacation environment. Belize boasts an impressive barrier reef teeming with marine life, world-class diving and water sports, sunny tropical weather, jungles full of ancient ruins and history, chartered private boat cruises and island hopping.

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The Power of Brands Can Propel Offshore Investors: Cuisine

Several long-established luxury restaurants on Ambergris Caye have been supplemented by new ones sprouting up regularly. Wine de Vine is an upscale wine bar and deli where one can enjoy all kinds of imported reds, whites and rosés while snacking on a custom charcuterie and cheese board or pick up specialty items to build one at home. There is also an upscale chocolate boutique, The Belize Chocolate Company, where you can sample decadent truffles, bonbons, take home body creams and even enjoy a chocolate-making class.

Supply and Demand Imbalance in Lodging Means Opportunity

While a norm in most established tourist destinations, the emergence of these offerings at an early stage signals the transition to mainstream tourism for a country. The same is true for hotels and a lack of branded product. Some of the more prominent non-branded luxury hotels and resorts that have been on the island for years include: MataChica and Victoria House. They are wonderful properties and serve a niche market as boutique properties with a select clientele. However, with more and more mainstream travelers coming to Belize, the need for familiar brands has exploded, yet supply is constrained.

The Power of Brands Can Propel Offshore Investors: Luxury Sells

Michael Crawford, Four Seasons’ president of Portfolio Management and Owner Relations, said in an interview with Bloomberg, “Destinations take time to build.  The Belizean government built theirs slowly but intentionally, creating a desirable real estate market with a fairly low cost of entry and no estate or capital gains taxes. They understand that when you draw luxury ownership, the market grows and luxury tourism follows.”

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Marriott and Hilton have entered the market serving the high-end clients with a quality and predictable vacation experience. Best Western is also represented, delivering a value price to consumers with the consistency of a known brand.  More brands are sure to follow as Belize becomes an established tourism destination.

Real estate investors are drawn to branded properties for the more predictable cash flow generated by the huge reservation systems and loyalty programs offered by the brands. Owners may see triple net returns in the double-digit percentages after initial stabilization in branded properties.

The Power of Brands Can Propel Offshore Investors: Appreciation

Appreciation is another play in a market like Belize. As the country continues to climb in popularity, the value of existing properties is likely to soar. Both cash flow and capital appreciation are driving significant investment in Belize.

From the booming tourism trends, market positioning and initiatives of world-renowned brand name hoteliers, it is obvious that Belize is the new hot destination for mainstream travelers. While the market is hot for luxury brands, opportunities in the mid-range brands are rapidly expanding, too. This largely ignored segment of the market serves the greatest number of travelers, the middle class.

For both developers and individuals looking to purchase vacation homes or excellent investment properties, a Best Western Studio Suite could be a good fit.   The shortage of cost-focus, branded hotel rooms offers higher occupancy and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) than a comparable nonbranded product. The opportunity provided by the emerging branded hotel market in Belize, especially in this early stage, is one to seriously consider right now.

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CTA:    Watch this pre-recorded webinar on branded Belize Residences here.

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