Fantasy World – Real World – Tourism Hocus Pocus
As every Belizean knows gospel and verse: tourism is BIG BUSINESS. Nothing like all those tourist greenbacks to warm the cockles of a dude’s heart. Literally the more the merrier. A pile of Benjamins does wonders for one's physical and psychic well-being. Gonna party like its 1999.
Yes, tourism is generating all kinds of revenue. Thousand upon thousands Belizeans put bread and a wee bit of cheddar on the dinner table thanks to our robust tourist industry. Yes, tourism is a lifesaver, but to continue its phenomenally lucrative track record the new generation of tourism related entrepreneurs will need to think outside the traditional destination box.
So far the tourism biz has been mining two golden veins: the eco-traveler and upscale jet setter clienteles. The focus for the eco-lodges is up-close-and-personal experiences with the unspoiled natural grandeur of Belize’s rivers, forests, ruins, reef and cayes. As for jet setter lodges, they cater to the sophisticated whims of the moneyed elite and pamper them to the max in a palatial environments with the obligatory thatched roofs. Jimmy Buffet escapism decked out in platinum spoons.
Though for the Belize destination-travel industry to sustain its current success rate it will need to develop other viable niche markets. The bottom line in the tourist biz is travelers are drawn to places that tap into fantasies. It’s a variation of the international Disney ethos that has made a billion dollar icon out of a spindly legged rodent in knickerbockers. Disney World creates a fantasy environment with oh-so cuddly whimsical critters like Mickey, Pluto, Donald and Minnie. Tourists look for similar fantasy escapes when traveling; sans cuddly rodents naturally. In the tropics they look for the three “S”s: sea, sun and sand and all the myths associated with the “S”s. Things like calypso music, coconut palms, thatched roofs, geckos, bright hued buildings, sailboats, scuba diving seafood and possibly even scantily clad, tawny natives for cultural exchanges. Choose your daydream.
As in any other field in the tourist resort biz there are the innovators and there are the imitators. In Belize the godfather of the innovators is the Maruba Resort and Jungle Spa in Maskall Village about an hour’s drive from the Phillip Goldson International Airport. Maruba was carved out of the jungle by the Nicholson family. Paterfamilias Dr. Merickston Nicholson is a renowned physician/cancer specialist who was born in Trinidad and is of African ancestry and his wife Anna, a fashion/interior designer was born in Austria and is of German ancestry.
The union of smoldering Caribbean rhythms and structured Teutonic precision spawned the Maruba experience twenty-five, thirty years ago. That Caribbean-German mixture is a potent combination. Maruba is a highly unique fusion of two bloodlines: the earthiness and spontaneity of tribal Africa via the Caribbean merged with the meticulous organization and Old World opulence of Austria. It joins together the best in the Caribbean and the Rhineland: primeval and posh. Miscegenation at its most glorious. To stop and clarify the previous idea, I refer to the original meaning of the word “miscegenation” which is simply “mixing of races”. Unfortunately through its usage by White Supremacists in the Deep South (USA) miscegenation has nasty pejorative connotations. That noted, Maruba is a prime example of cultural-racial symbiosis instead of cultural-racial clashing.
Maruba is kind of like Disney World for adults. There is a pervasive aura of elemental earthiness wafting over the grounds; an almost palpable sexuality. In contrast to that primal essence is a chic elegance. The combination results in an exclusive fantasy world for mature audiences.
For the tourist biz in Belize to sustain its current robust success it needs more original thinking entrepreneurs like Maruba’s Nicholsons. It needs more resort owners that try something different, that create their own fantasy land for tourists to escape to. It’s all about tourism hocus pocus. The successful resort must recreate another reality; a kinder, gentler, more exotic and scintillating reality for its clientele. Resort owner as magician, Houdini time, the fantasy is the key.