Haiti as a leisure destination? Not so fast, study says.

A young girl jumps rope inside the Jean-Marie Vincent camp for people displaced by the 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, April 22. Since the 2010 earthquake, it’s more common to see missionaries and aid workers here than beach-bound vacationers.

Dieu Nalio Chery/AP/File

Port au Prince, Haiti

A new study that questions Haiti’s decision to prioritize tourism as a part of its development agenda has evoked a mixed response from tourism professionals here.

The assessment, conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan, says that more visitors come to Haiti because they are of Haitian descent and “coming to see family and friends” than for the sort of recreation that draws tourists to Caribbean beach resorts. The study concludes that the Haitian government is “unrealistic” in its current hard-sell of Haiti as a leisure destination, and may be relying too heavily on that as a poverty reduction strategy.

More than 70 percent of Haitians live on less than $2 a day. Since the 2010 earthquake, it’s more common to see missionaries and aid workers here than beach-bound vacationers.

Haiti’s tourism minister Stephanie Villedrouin says she rejects the idea that travel that focuses on volunteering for a charitable cause is more suitable for Haiti than a recreation-focused tourism industry.

Two tourism training institutes opened recently with support from the Haitian government, which is also developing an eco-friendly resort on an island, Île á Vache.

Tourism “will create jobs, directly and indirectly,” says Ms. Villedrouin. “Though it will take time,” tourism has the potential to change Haiti’s prospects.

Jacqualine Labrom, who runs the tourism company Voyages Lumière, questions the University of Michigan study, which cites interviews with 2,231 tourists and 390 tourism professionals. “They didn’t find me,” she says, “and Voyages Lumiere has been around for 15 years, looking after ‘real’ tourists, who are coming in purely to see the country and get to know Haiti.”

Ms. Labrom says tourists are drawn to Haiti’s “wonderful beaches and beautiful mountains as well as the most magnificent fort, which is the only fort in the whole of the Caribbean not built by Europeans, but by ex-slaves.”

But Haiti’s more recent history of political violence and frequent natural disasters decisively ended its 1970s and 1980s image as the celebrated destination where Bill and Hillary Clinton honeymooned. In 2012, just 950,000 visitors entered Haiti on tourist visas, compared to 4.6 million in the neighboring Dominican Republic.

Jean Lionel Pressoir, who runs Tour Haiti, agrees partially with the new study. Haiti cannot compete with other Caribbean destinations on the bland 3-S (sun, sea, and sand) quotient, he says. However, it can hold its own as an alternative tourism destination because of its unique history and culture.


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8 thoughts on “Haiti as a leisure destination? Not so fast, study says.

  1. check this out ,I went to haiti with a co-worker freind of mine who is haitian,he pursuaded me and 3 other fellow co-workers to take our vacation in Haiti and we agreed.We were so happy and thrilled to go to Haiti the first black free country,this was the biggest mistake we ever made.We were treated so badly by the people and the police.Here is what happen,when we got to Haiti we took a cab to a rental car company which is about a 3 minute ride from the airport,when we got their the cab driver said we each had to give him a hundred dollars US each,which came up to five hundred US,we said that cant be possible,that much money.We ask the guy at the rental car company is the price the cab driver was charging us was correct and he seem to side with the cab driver.$500 dollars US for a maybe 5 minutes ride,it just didnt seem right,so we ask the guy to call the police,this was the biggest mistake we made.A few minutes later 3 police vehicules with about 12 police Inside came to the seen.Right away They jump out of the truck and started pushing us around.We dindnt do anything wrong and didnt understand why we were being treated like criminals,they said we were making troble and they said that they were going to take us to jail,it seemed like they were freinds or relatives of the cad driver.WE were then put on back of a Toyota pickup truck.Every time one of us tried to talk they would hit or slap us.We were scared and it seemed as if they were going to take us somewere and kill us.Then one of the police said that he would help us if we gave him $2000 US,we saw that we were doomed,and we pooled together and paid the money.We didnt see any point of reporting the incident because my Haitian co-worker freind said you cant win in haiti in situations like this,he said they would make us spend so much money and nothing would get done.The next day we took a flight back to miami then flew to Jamaica,and had the best vacation we could have ,with no problems.Take my advice Haiti is not a place to go if your going on vacation-fix the enternal problems Law-Justice Etc-and maybe

  2. As a Haitian-American who travels to Haiti frequently, I apologize for your awful experience. While I am not blind to the fact that crime does occur in Haiti, I have never heard of such a reprehensible experience as what you’ve described. This is certainly not a widespread condition in Haiti. I’m sure this is of little solace to you, but the vast majority of Haitians are honest, hardworking people.

    Should you ever decide to travel to Haiti again (highly unlikely, I’m sure), the car rental companies have an airport pick up service that you can arrange for ahead of time.

    Once again, my deepest apologies for your awful experience.

  3. Sounds like this guy was set up by his Haitian friend who knew the cab driver, police and how much $$ they had.

  4. This guy’s comment sounds like BS. I dont believe him a bit. Sounds like a bigot trying to harm Haiti

  5. Everyone in Haiti knows their is No Justice No Law in haiti,anyone one that disputes this is probably a cop or a judge or someone who is getting their money on the misery of others.Try to get your passport or birthcerticate renewd without paying someone on the side,it will never get done.If you are Haitian you Know this-

  6. not just on Haiti truth org but all news story on Haiti shows that it is not ready for tourist.Articles about the police and the rich elite that is involve in the kiddnapping.The politicians that try to hide the kiddnappers and accomplises and and the senators involvements in the drug trade, the goverment infighting shows that haiti is not ready.I am not bashing Haiti the news articles on Haiti speaks for itself.My advice is to clean up the police force and all the political infighting,arrest all the currupt senators,deputys,and judges.Try to put system of investigating on the level of interpol and the FBI in place in Haiti,then you will see a change.Does it make sense to give immunity to the ones thats damageing the country,Haiti is the only western country that does this.It doesnt make since.My comments is not intended to put Haiti down but to shed some light on the problems that we have in Haiti.I am Haitian by the way,we do not like to talk about the real issues thats keeping the country down we are proud of our history and what we did to change history for blacks.I feel like we have forgotten our accomplishments.We need to push foward and and remind our younger generation of what we did in history and not settle for this currupt future.

  7. Elizar D- insulting this guy by calling him a bigot is is not right.He and his friends tried to come to hait for their vacation,the were treated badly.Everyone knows the police is currupt,and everyone knows when you land in Haiti everyone out to get your money.What we need to do is post signs at the airport with prices for foreiners to know the cab fares.This is what we need to do if we want tourist.We have to accomadate them.We also need to put more police in the airport and in the parking lot of the airport,im always having problems coming in these 2 places.We need to start a forum on the problems were having when coming to Haiti.This is what we need to do to get tourist into our beatiful country.

  8. this Article is right on point,mosly the jaspora visits Haiti,they spend the most money in the haitian economy.They know how to move around haiti and how to avoid the problems with insecurity.What the government need to do first is work on fixing all the problems in haiti before they invest in tourisim,you have to crawl before you walk.Trying to move ahead to fast will only get alot of people hurt,and leave a bad name for haiti.Its like know one thinking and seeing the problems we have down here.

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