Remember when we all hitchhiked everywhere in Belize?



Hitchhiking was by far the most efficient way to get around Belize just a few decades ago, both monetarily and time-wise.

Bus breakdowns were much more predictable than the  schedules, and hitching was nice. Usually crammed in a pan full of fellow passengers, you’d make all sorts of interesting acquaintances and catch up on the news. If it was a long run, like from Belmopan to Dangriga or Placencia, there’d be stops along the way for more beer or rum or even gibnut burgers if you were lucky.

Upon arriving at destination you’d pay the going rate, if you knew it, or politely ask the driver “What I got for you for gas?” The driver usually would look perplexed, as if he was just giving you a lift , anyway, before asking for the usual standard $10 or so. It was all very much, ”Thank you for the ride,” and that you were just  helping out with the petrol. Although the transaction was in a way as formal as any pubic trans system, it felt different and nice.

Times change and now we’re reporting about the announcement by Enterprise Holdings  that it is franchising the use of its National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car brands to Belize Estate Co. Ltd. in Belize City.

Neal & Massy Automotive Ltd. completed the agreement with Belize Estate Co, according to the announcement.

Peter A. Smith, vice president of global franchising for Enterprise Holdings, said that Belize Estate brings valuable transportation experience and a record of job creation and growth in Belize. “We are pleased to add them as our franchisee in this attractive market,” Mr Smith said.

Now, we do miss the hitchhiking, kind of, (Chaa Creek’s Lucy Fleming was hitchhiking along the Western Highway some years back when a LandRover stopped to give her a lift. It was none other than the then current (and Belize’s first) Prime Minister , George Price. It was a great way for government and young entrepreneurs to discuss how the new country was going.

But time marches on, and it’s wonderful that people can now actually hire comfortable cars to see the sights of Belize these days.  Probably has something to do with the fact that Belize has become one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean and Central America, according to the Belize Statistical Office, which reports that visitors totalled nearly 1 million in 2012.

“Visitors to Belize might be looking for a new adventure, but when it comes to renting a car they want access to brands they know they can depend on,” said David O’Brien, group executive vice president of Neal & Massy Holdings Ltd. “Expanding the National and Alamo brands into Belize means customers can expect the highest level of customer service in this popular Central American destination.”

He’s got a point there. Hiring from the same firm you see in, say Phoenix or Denver is more confidence-building than hiring from “Rasta Ralph, the  Barefoot Kar King’s” lot of two unwashed Pontiacs.

According to Enterprise Holdings, National and Alamo expect to begin operations with a location at Belize City’s Phillip Goldson International Airport in late 2013 or early 2014.

So while we miss hitching (I’m dying to tell my own story about getting picked up hitching by the then police commissioner – C’mon, you know who you are – for one of the best rides from San Ignacio  to Belmopan anyone ever had… I was still laughing when I finally hit Placencia…) , it’s good to know that little Belize is growing to attract the big guys…

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