Business opportunities are really diverse here in Belize and the government realizes that. What they did is the whole country is privately driven and operated. Even the international airport in Belize is private. The road was built by the private sector. Most businesses are operated by the private sector because they have more money than the government.
In order to start a business, they have an association in Belize called BELTRAIDE, (Belize Trade and Investment Association). They are very supportive to help people who are starting businesses here. It’s free and they will help you with everything you need to get started. BELTRAIDE is really focused on the financial markets and offshore businesses, including infrastructure for call centers because the people here are well educated. Everyone can read and write, school is mandatory until 16 years old, everybody speaks English, and it is closer to the US than India. As a result, having centers, for example, is a real business opportunity for the country.
This is what the government has been trying to find out for the last 5 to 6 years. They are trying to find out the fuse of those niches on which they can focus. They promote big investments and eco reserves. About 60% to 70% of the whole country is protected area, so they want to exploit that a little bit by staying as a green and undeveloped country. The target is high-end luxury eco traveling. There is definitely a lot of room.
The rest of the business opportunities in Belize are basic things, things you would find in the Yellow Pages in the US; you just walk around here and you will come home with 550 business ideas. In Placencia, for example, we don’t have a flower shop, we don’t have a car mechanic shop yet, and we don’t have a fancy hair salon yet. There’s no bike store. Belize is a new area and all the basic stuff still needs to be done.
Starting a business is pretty straightforward because the government encourages it. All you need to show is a bank statement. It’s not a joke. All you have to show is a proof of your financial capacity, and you are welcome. You will get your residency and work permit if you show a business plan and show that you are going to contribute to the economy; that is the only question that they will ask you. If you are going to come to Belize to retire or work, they will ask you what you are going to take and what you are going to give.