There are quite a few hotel success stories in Belize. I think if you look at some of the hotels in San Pedro and elsewhere in the country that are doing a good business and (generally) making money, you will see that most have several things in common ... though they have a variety of approaches to success.

Over the years, here's what I've come to think are the ingredients for success in the hospitality business in Belize:

* Prior hotel experience, or if not that at least a successful track record running another kind of business.

* Sufficient capital to make the necessary investments in the property, in marketing and in operations during the first months and in some cases years of operation.

* Personal, hands-on involvement by the owner.

* A commitment to marketing and knowledge of and often an intuitive understanding of the five Ps of the marketing mix and how they work together (People, Price, Place, Promotion and Product).

* Good people skills -- an ability to get along with and motivate people of all types and backgrounds.

* An understanding that a hotel is a business, not a lifestyle. You have to have an eye for business detail and cost control.

* An understanding of what most guests want in terms of value, service and amenities ... and the willingness to satisfy them at a very intensive and high level. (Some people are just not cut out to be in a service business like the hotel business.)

* Lots of common sense, and in many cases the ability to do things yourself -- fix things, for example.

* A good bit of luck.

It helps if you make the right location decision. It's a lot easier to be successful on Ambergris Caye than, say, in Corozal Town or even Placencia. San Pedro is the most popular destination in Belize; it's fairly easy to get to; it's an almost year-round destination (whereas even Placencia is seasonal); it's safe and friendly (for visitors, anyway).

If you're serious about succeeding, I would look at operations like the following, among others: Inn at Robert's Grove, Chaa Creek, Banana Beach, Ramon's, Hamanasi, Chan Chich, Lamanai Outpost, Mopan River Resort, Great House, Colton House, Treetops, Aguada, Iguana Reef Inn, Villa Boscardi, Tony's.

--Lan Sluder

Lan Sluder/Belize First