How to Open a Hotel in Belize

How does a law school dropout from Detroit end up a hotel partner in Belize? Stewart Krohn, 67, is a modern-day Renaissance man. Before opening Naïa Resort and Spa in Placencia, Belize, Krohn worked as a first mate, a tennis pro, wrote for a magazine, started a magazine, became a television producer, and founded Belize’s first local TV station—sometimes doing two jobs simultaneously.

Leaving Michigan for Belize. “I started law school at University of Michigan in 1972. When I got halfway through my studies, I decided to reward myself with a holiday. I had previously run into a fellow at the tennis club where I worked who owned a resort in Belize. He had a 50-foot sailboat. He said if I could find my way down there, the rest of the vacation would be on him. At this point in December 1973, the snow was three feet deep outside my window. I couldn’t call him, so I sent a cable, bought a ticket to go to Belize, and went out sailing for a week with this guy. When we reached the harbor after a week at sea—fabulous diving, fishing, the whole bit—he said his first mate was leaving, and would I like the job? For some reason I said yes, thinking this would be a one-semester leave of absence. One semester turned into a 44-year leave of absence.

“My parents were actually pretty cool about it. My mom was obviously upset, [but] once I got married and started having kids, everything was great. Around the same time I moved to Belize, my mother moved from Detroit, where I grew up, to Florida. On the way from her house to the airport, you’d always pass by Stetson University College of Law. Like clockwork, for 40 years, every time we’d drive by Stetson I could predict it. She’d say, ‘Stewart, you think you’re ever gonna go back to law school?’ This persisted until I was 60 years old.”

Becoming a tennis pro, then a magazine writer. “I worked on the boat in Placencia for six months and then my student loans came due, so I got a job as a tennis pro in Belize City. One of the kids in my class hit a ball through the window. I had to go to this child’s parents to work out how this would get paid for. The father was at the time one of the only real estate brokers in the country. He published a little magazine to promote his real estate sales and told me he needed someone to write for it. He’d send me out to do these puff pieces which were still legitimate features. Every story was about the great potential of the country.”

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