International athletes take to Haiti’s skies and mountains for adventure sports

Published on by Rachel Belt (author)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN)— A growing number of international adventure sports operators are looking to Haiti’s mountains, beaches and skies to organize events to showcase the Caribbean country as a destination for sporting events.

Free Flight Haiti, a paragliding initiative and Mountain Bike Haiti (MTB) are two new adventure sport initiatives taking off in Haiti. Free Flight Haiti helps experienced pilots by establishing flying sites, sharing information, and coordinating tandem flights.

Chris Hilliard of Free Flight Haiti told HCNN, “Haiti doesn't necessarily need the tourism of the 1970's and 80’s. Haiti has changed, and so has the global tourism industry. People are looking for getaways that transcend isolated relaxation and provide opportunities to really experience other places and cultures.”

Next Winter, they plan to bring groups of visiting pilots and hope their tandem operation, taking passengers for scenic flights on the Côte des Arcadins (outside the metropolitan area out Port-au-Prince), will help support a training program for Haitian pilots.

"This works wherever there are mountains and good weather. In a few years there could be Haitian pilots taking tourists for flights in their country,” said Hilliard. "In Montrouis (North of the capital) we found a great combination of steep mountains, friendly locals at launch, good flying conditions, and landing spots.”

“Haiti is good for paragliding and paragliding is good for Haiti,” stated Hilliard, explaining that it's also a pretty photogenic sport, that will help promote the country's image through aerial photographs of Haiti’s mountains and coastlines.

International and Haitian athletes also took part in an inaugural 65-mile mountain bike race organized in February by MTB Haiti.

Mountain bike racers from Switzerland, the U.S., France and elsewhere took to Haiti’s hills for two days of challenging ascents and descents. The event was sponsored by several international and national businesses.

The race began outside the National Palace in the capital, through the northern La Visite National Park with a finish line in Marigot in the Southeast region.

Haiti’s Minister of Youth, Sport, and Civic Action, Magalie Racine, and the Minister of Tourism, Stephanie Villedrouin, attended the award ceremony and congratulated participants.

Authorities think adventure sports with the participation of international athletes can help change the image of the country and further attract mainstream international travelers.

The Haitian Ministry of Tourism recently signed an agreement with the Canadian tour operator, Transat, to provide a package flight and vacation deal from Montreal, Canada, to Port-au-Prince, surrounding beach resorts and other sites in Haiti.

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