Monday, January 24, 2011


*** There were three KEY people that started the TOURIST BUSINESS in the colony of British Honduras. You have to remember there were no roads to speak of in the Yucatan, Mexico, or even Guatemala at the time. The THREE KEY pioneers of tourism in British Honduras were Bert Foreman, a lobster trap fisherman around Seargants Caye and eventually he built his own Caye, called Foreman´s Caye. He ran British Civil service types coming to the colony out of the Fort George Hotel of the time. Ray Auxillou who used this small 24 foot, homebuilt, 7 hp Volvo Penta diesel cabin cruiser boat on weekends out of the Bellevue Hotel and John Grief with his tiny 3 passenger Cessna 172 out of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. In the early 1960´s my tourist charters, were oil people, Jaguar- Boone and Crocket trophy hunters, drug smugglers killing time waiting for their airplane marijuana loads, DEA agents chasing them and investigating me and eventually the business picked up with lawyers and doctors out of Texas, Louisiana and Detroit with the Michigan for Alliance Program. My best earner was 13 years being the operator of the University of Corpus Christi, Marine Biology Department winter 3 week student group. I made cheap money, about $6000 Bz, but it paid for the whole year in those days. Eventually, I built the ATOLL QUEEN motorsailer with help from many tourists, donating stuff, like sails, stove, compass and things. With the motorsailer I carried small and large groups. The biggest being the University of Corpus Christi, marine biology department annual expedition for three weeks. This consisted of around 22 students and scuba and camping gear they had and I took them around the Atolls and barrier reef island researching and learning about corals and fish. In the Vietnam War era, there was an influx of cheap living HIPPIES and the government eventually put a stop to that, as they had no money and were distressing the locals.
Ray Auxillou, Cap´n Ray in 1970´s. This photo was his poster as a traveling magician in Belize.
John Grief and family, an American who started Tourism on Ambergris Caye fishing village of San Pedro in last half of the 1960´s with a Cessna 172 airplane, the forerunner of which became TROPIC AIR - 50 years later.

Cap´n Ray ( Ray Auxillou ) started tourism in Caye Caulker about 1964 while teaching at the Primary School on the island, population at that time was 90 houses. He built his first speedboat, a 12 footer to work with. By 1967 he had completed a second boat, a 24 ft, open cabin cruiser called SAILFISH, beside the teachers house to work tourists out of the Bellevue Hotel on the mainland. By 1969 he had this two story wooden HIDEWAY LODGE, bought with shares in a company and shares invested from tourist friends. The lodge was wood and had eight bedrooms on the second floor on the beach at Caye Caulker. The next boat at the dock in this photo was built by the beach house of his and wife and became the famous 34 ft, twin diesel motor sailer ATOLL QUEEN during the 1970´s and 1980´s. This village of Caye Caulker gradually switched from lobster fishing to tourism and is now famous world wide with a population of around 3000.

Important Dates in Development of Tourism in Belize ( contributed by Lan Sluder on the Belize Culture Listserve )

1948 Vick Barothy opens what was first fishing lodge in British Honduras, a camp on the Belize River near Belize City, now Belize River Lodge

1953 Fort George Hotel, first major hotel in British Honduras, opens in Belize City with 36 rooms

1961 Reef Colony Club with a restaurant, pool and eight rooms, on the site of what is now Ramon’s Village, the dream of Vernon and Terry Hammon, first resort built on Ambergris Caye, was destroyed by Hurricane Hattie just before it was to open

1964 Tourism begins on Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye, with visitors mostly from Belize City on day trips, Pioneering tourism full time seasons were John Grief on San Pedro, Ray Auxillou ( Cap´t Ray ) on Caye Caulker and Bert Foreman on Foreman´s Caye near Seargants Caye.

1965 Celi McCorkle opens four-room Holiday Hotel in San Pedro with husband John Grief.

1969 Paradise Hotel, owned by Jerry McDermott, opens in San Pedro (Phoenix Resort is now on the site of the Paradise Hotel)

1971 Jacques Cousteau visits Belize and introduces world to the Blue Hole tries to get scuba operations to give free guiding to Blue Hole.

197___ Ted Williams opens hotel in Placencia

1974 George and Carol Bevier open Rum Point Inn in Placencia; Elvi’s opens as take-out burger stand in her home in San Pedro

1970s San Ignacio Resort Hotel, Tony’s Inn and Hotel Maya in Corozal Town, Pelican Beach in

Dangriga, Hotel Mopan in Belize City and other early hotels open; Caye Caulker becomes a stop on the “Gringo Trail,” along with Isla Mujeres in the Yucat√°n and Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

1975 First dive boats begin operation in San Pedro, including Isla Mia and Reef Roamer

1977 Belize’s first national airline, Belize Airways Ltd., established by Barry Bowen and others

1981 Chaa Creek Lodge opens in Cayo

1984 Belize exhibits at the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans, introducing Belikin to the world

1985 Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) founded, an expansion of the Caribbean Hotel Association (later the Belize Hotel Association)

1988 Barry Bowen’s Chan Chich Lodge opens

1991 San Pedro Sun established, publishes weekly newspaper on Ambergris Caye; the largest

1993 Francis Ford Coppola opens Blancaneaux Lodge to the public hotel in Belize, the Ramada Royal Reef (now Princess Hotel) opens, with 120 rooms

1994 Tour guides first licensed

1996 Belize Tourism Board established

1998 The Blackstone Report, the first strategic plan for tourism in Belize, published; cruise ship tourists number around 14,000, mostly on small ships

2000 Belize’s first big casino opens at Princess Hotel in Belize City

2001 Tourism Village opens in Belize City and first large cruise ship visits

2003 Cruise tourism jumps from less than 50,000 in 2002 to 320,000 in 2003

2002 Overnight tourist arrives reach 200,000

2004 Cruise tourism to Belize peaks at around 850,000

2007 Overnight tourism arrivals reach 250,000; national hotel occupancy peaks at 44.3%


Mac said...

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Belize Hotel

Frank Caruso said...

We stayed at the Rum Point Inn in April,1989. George and Coral were great hosts. Quite a lot has changed since then. George took us to the Mayan ruins of Nim Li Punit. Quite an adventure. Also went up the Monkey River. Placencia was a very tiny village, as was Siene Bigh.

Frank Caruso