Belize’s tourism market has long time been modelled after a North American market. Managing associations took form in the 1980s with Americans and Canadians at the helm as business pioneers alongside Belizeans. As such, it should be no surprise that the tipping system here almost mirrors what you find in the United States and Canada.
This means that a minimum tip should be 10%, a decent tip at 15% and a tip for top-notch service starts at 20%.
Courtesy Rumfish y Vino
It’s been a tacit expectation in the industry for some time, but it goes beyond culture. It’s economics. Most workers in the service business are heavily dependent on tips, as they make a typical hourly wage of US$2.50. In fact, in high-cost-of-living tourism destinations of Belize, some businesses, especially hotels and resorts, will automatically include a minimum 10% service charge as a safeguard for their staff.
Take note that not all businesses do this, so it’s always considerate to check when you receive your bill especially when venturing outside your hotel.
Tips are also shared among staff in most cases. At a restaurant for example, your BZ$20 (US$10) tip on a BZ$100 (US$50) bill will be divvied up among servers and kitchen staff. This also happens on some tours too. Tour operators may collect the tips that you intended for your fantastic guide, and go as far as sharing your token of appreciation with staff working at the reservations desk.
It’s important to understand the matter of tip sharing at businesses. Everyone plays a part in helping your experience to be memorable, so no matter how charming your server may have been at that restaurant, there’s a sous chef in the kitchen who took the time to prepare your plate as requested. For this reason, refrain from attempting to slip a few dollars into a server’s hands or pockets after your meal and instead, leave your tip in the check folder.
While Belize gladly accepts U.S. dollar bills, there’s no use for U.S. coins here, so keep those pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters to yourself or they will remain in the bottom of the tip jar along with other foreign currency for many years to come!
What’s the benefit for you in tipping? Offering that extra incentive to people working in the service industry boosts morale in the workplace and helps to cultivate a higher standard of service in the Belize tourism market. Belizeans are known to be friendly people, and a good tip will definitely generate more of those smiles that so many visitors have come to love.
The cost of operating a business in a country where more than 70% of goods are imported, including a utility as essential as electricity, coupled with high rental costs is relatively high. As such, hourly wages cannot advance much higher that the status quo to offer customers a reasonably affordable experience, and tipping is a necessary income supplement for those who work hard and long hours in the business.
What about those group charges? Sometimes you’ll find a group service charge on your bill, especially at restaurants. It takes special effort to accommodate large groups at eateries and in some establishments, a group can take up several tables that could have been turned over three times during their seating. A group charge can be anywhere from 12 to 18% in Placencia and helps to safeguard that precious extra income for staff.
Don’t get these service and group charges confused with the 12.5 % G.S.T. on your bill – that’s Belize’s General Sales Tax and counts separately from gratuity.
What happens if you don’t tip? You won’t be penalized, and professional staff will not treat you any differently if they see you again, but you should know that your extra contribution is greatly appreciated and makes a world of a difference in their daily grind.