With new hotels, Haiti seeks high-end tourists
Jayne Clark, USA TODAY
Three years after the earthquake that ravaged Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince and beyond, the country’s prime minister announced the island is angling for affluent tourists as a way to become more self-sufficient.
A luxury lodging opened in December, one of 11 hotel projects underway. A tourist corridor in Cap Haitien in the north of Haiti was just inaugurated. And a new tourist guide has hit the bookstores.
With its extreme poverty and turbulent politics, Haiti was hardly a tourist mecca even before the quake that killed about 316,000 people in January 2010. It’s uncertain whether pleasure-seeking vacationers would choose a place associated with so much tragedy and hardship — and where an estimated 350,000 are still living in makeshift camps.
Undaunted, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe traveled to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in late January, where he told the Associated Press, “Haiti is open for business.” He called tourism a “very high priority,” saying the that building the industry is a path to greater self-sufficiency.
The five-star Royal Oasis, in Petionville opened in December with 128-rooms whose starting rate is more than $200 a night. The presidential suite goes for $1,300. Nearing completion is a Best Western, and Comfort Suites and Marriott properties are planned, as well, reports the Miami Herald.
Foreign-aid workers are the logical target — at least in the short run — for the 1,200 new hotel rooms expected to roll out in the next year.
Still, Paul Clammer, author of the just-published Bradt Guide to Haiti, envisions sunnier horizons.
“Any country trying to build a tourist industry might give their eyeteeth for a portfolio like Haiti’s — it has a rich cultural heritage that lives through its art, music and religion,” he writes in an explanation headlined: Why a guide to Haiti now? “Its history — written across its landscape — is astounding … I wrote this guide to Haiti now because I wanted to subvert people’s expectations of Haiti. It is an endlessly fascinating and beautiful place that I hope travelers will discover and enjoy with my guidebook.”