Tourism is an economic activity that influences virtually every corner of the contemporary world. This study focuses on tourism development in Belize where in a short period of time the national government has shifted from virtually ignoring tourism to making it a national priority for economic development. This paper adopts an historical perspective to describe the political economy of tourism development in Belize in the latter half of the twentieth century. It begins by establishing a political economy framework for analyzing tourism development. With this in place, tourism in Belize is discussed through four major stages. The stages primarily reflect the role of the state with respect to tourism, which were in part established based on the attitudes toward tourism, tourism numbers, as well as on the development of tourism infrastructure within the country. In this sense, the paper is seen as a contribution to public policy that sees tourism as one means for economic development, but one that will be reliant on policy and economic initiatives that are external to local communities.