Haiti banks on tourism to fight poverty

Published on by Rachel Belt (author)

Wahoo Bay resort shorline (photo: )
Wahoo Bay resort shorline

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN)— The Haitian government banks on tourism to promote job creation and infrastructure development to reduce poverty in Haiti that is still struggling to recover from a devastating Earthquake that hit the impoverished Caribbean country three years ago.

The Haitian Prime Minister, Laurent Lamonthe, is leading efforts with the Minister of Tourism, Stephanie Villedrouin, to train Haitians in hospitality, facilitate investments in new hotels and build and expand airports outside Port-au-Prince.

“We need to attract investments and to create jobs that will help us get people out of poverty and tourism is one means to this end,” Laurent Lamonthe told HCNN.

Popular beaches in Port Salut near Les Cayes in the South and in the Southeastern city of Jacmel, among some of the beachside sites, are undergoing renovations and upgrades, hoping to attract tourists and investors.

“We organized eight training seminars in tourism for 500 young professionals in the four priority areas, the West, North, South and Southeast regions,” said Prime Minister, Laurent Lamonthe told HCNN. “One thousand two hundred restaurant and hotel employees have already benefited from these trainings,” he said.

The Minister of Tourism also announced the training of twenty hotel managers and the signing of a technical cooperation agreement with the Canadian Montmorency College and the Hotel and Tourism Institute of Quebec to upgrade training at the Haiti Hospitality School.

“The Ministry of Tourism is conducting a policy that aims first to improve tourist services through a continuing training program and then to do an inventory of tourism infrastructures in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince and elsewhere,” said Stephanie Villedrouin.

Villedrouin recently signed an agreement with Transat, a Canadian worldwide tour operator, to bring tourists to Haiti, putting it back on the tourism map. The first group of tourists with Transat arrived in Haiti on January 23, 2013, for a one-week stay.

“It is exciting for Haiti to have reached the agreement with Transat. That means they trust us and we are in that partnership for the long term,” Villedrouin told HCNN.

The travel package to Haiti includes a flight from Montreal to Port-au-Prince and transportation to beach resorts and other tourist sites, such as the reputed Haitian Barbancourt rum factory and the National Museum, which traces the history of Haiti, the first black independent republic of the world.

The capital’s international airport, which was heavily damaged in the Earthquake has been renovated and the airport in Cap-Haitien can now receive large international flights after an expansion of its runway. Former US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton’s Boeing 757 was the first plane of its size to land at the airport. She was attending the opening of an industrial park at Caracol in October 2012.

Similar works are underway for the Southern airport in Les Cayes and plans have been announced to build a new airport on the Southern island of Ile-a-Vache, known as one of the most beautiful islands in the region.

Several new hotels opened in 2012, including the 5- star Royal Oasis Hotel, owned by Occidental, the Best Western and El Rancho, the latter soon to reopen under NH Hoteles management. A Marriott hotel will also be built with the funding of Denis O’Brian, CEO and founder of Digicel, the leading telecom company in Haiti.

The Ministry of Tourism opened the first hospitality school in the Southern town of Les Cayes this year.

Tourism is a main source for revenue for many countries in the region. The neighboring Dominican Republic is the top tourist destination in the Caribbean and Haitian authorities intend to promote Haitian destination packages to tourists visiting the neighboring nation.

Despite investment efforts in the tourism sector, US and Canadian governments increased travel warnings to Haiti recently which contrasted with calls by the same governments to promote foreign investments in Haiti. The advisories warned tourists of high security risks, particularly in areas of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

The Haitian government protested the travel warnings saying that the country is safer than several countries of the region according to a report by the United Nations based on homicide statistics.

Haiti still faces a lot of challenges in rebuilding its infrastructure, its security system among other sectors. However, Haitian authorities believe tourism is one of the most promising sectors to promote development in the Caribbean nation.

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