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Haiti has high hopes for tourism

Sunday, January 27, 2013
 A vendor at downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti, sells cherries from a hand-woven basket. Photo: Michelle Loubon

Lured by ruins of Sans Souci at Milot and the Citadel Fortress, tourists flock to the city of Cap-Haitien, on Haiti’s north coast. They make the trek past mountainous scenic landscapes to “ile de l’amour” (island of love) at Ile-a-vache. In fact, Haiti Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told Caribbean Journal in an interview in December it has high hopes for the tourism potential of picturesque Ile a Vache.


But the Haitian tourism industry is still underdeveloped. In the aftermath of the earthquake which rocked Port-au-Prince on January 10, 2010, there is still more work to be done throughout Haiti. Michel Presume, directeur de la Division Batiment Public, said infrastructure like water, sanitation and drainage was urgently needed to boost Haiti’s tourism industry.


Asked about the progress of tourism, Presume said, “There is the need for better infrastructure. Tourism and infrastructure go hand in hand. There is the need for water and telecommunications.”


He identified a project aimed at providing infrastructure like water and telecommunications at Jacmel. Jacmel is famously dubbed the art Capital of the Caribbean. Trails fenced with mango and the famously delicious apricot endemic to Hispaniola lead to Bassin Bleue waterfall. Apart from water which is often sourced from wells, there is the need for adequate Internet and telecommunications.


“The NATCOM company is providing more than 3,000 kilometres of fibre optics which would be deployed all over the country. There are plans to introduce telecommunications to host a teleconference from anywhere in Haiti. There are plans to bring good quality to hotels and equip them with state-of-the art  technology,” added Presume.


Among the hotels that were recently upgraded included five star Royal Oasis, managed by the Spanish firm Occidental and Kinam at suburb Petion-Ville and  Hotel Kanube. Best Western Haiti is slated to open soon and will add another 600 new rooms to Haiti’s hotel stock.  



Priority projects
Haiti Tourism Minister Stephanie Villedrouin recently unveiled a series of priority projects which are intended to boost tourism in 2013. She also shared plans to start rebranding Haiti’s tourism image. The island introduced a new logo and ad campaign—“Experience It.”


She noted the challenge was for Haiti to start converting the new campaign into more visitors. In a statement, she said, “The task is daunting and we recognise the magnitude of the challenges. However, we believe the dawn of prosperity and stability begins to shine on the face of this country we cherish and love so much.”



Boosting Haiti in 2013
• Potential agreements with Delta, Air France and Air Transat for the promotion of tourism packages. In fact, Canada’s Transat has already announced plans to offer vacation packages to Haiti.
• Promoting Haiti as a destination at tourism fairs in New York, Montreal, Guadeloupe and the Dominican Republic. (Guadeloupe, along with Martinique, has been of particular interest as well as fellow Francophone islands. In late 2012, Haiti  brought over a group of travel agents from Guadeloupe in a bid to bring more business from the French departments.
• Opening a tourism training institute in Les Cayes.
•  Additional work on airport construction in Les Cayes and Ile a Vache.
• Plans to open a “professional cuisine laboratory” with a restaurant component in the capital Port-au-Prince. It’s part of a push by the Ministry to promote Haiti’s cuisine—the latest manifestation was the launch of a series of videos focusing on Haiti’s gastronomy by world-renowned chef Jose Andres. He will visit Haiti for more filming work this year.
• Implement a “tourist police” as well, ostensibly to protect some of Haiti’s more popular tourism areas.


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