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On my recent trip to Haiti, I had the opportunity to experience so much over the 5 days of my visit. You can read about various aspects of the venture in my 3 posts, Possessed at a Voodoo Show in Haiti, 8th Wonder of the World built with Arrogance, Port au Prince Open for Business with International Hotel Chains.
As I wrote in my previous articles on the trip, the US Media has never given the island nation a fair shake. At the same time, the country brings much of the negativity upon itself.
A great take on the situation was written by a colleague of mine, Garry Pierre-Pierre, who is a natural born Haitian. As founder of the Haitian Times, Garry has seen the inner workings of the country from both sides of the political fence. His article, Haiti Teams Up with Delta To Woo Tourists, gives a wonderful perspective on the big picture. He was an endless source of information for this outsider, trying to find his way through the BS.
Our meetings with the tourism department, local government officials, and business owners were both enlightening and frustrating. Stéphanie Balmir Villedrouin, the Minister of Tourism, did her best to show us a future in Haiti where they can compete with the likes of the Dominican Republic and Mexico. My opinion is that all the goals are possible but it will take a a relentless effort by both the government and the local business community. The beach resorts, already in place, need major upgrades, to meet the high standards of the American Tourist. The International Chains that are starting to move into Port au Prince, must also take a leap of faith on the coast. Some of these deals are already in the works. Airports, Villas, Roads and other infrastructure are currently modeled out and accounted for, however bringing the plan to fruition is a towering feat.
The first major planned development is on the Haitian Island of Ile-a-Vache, a former base for Captain Morgan and his brood of buccaneers. It sits off the southwest point of mainland Haiti and encompasses 20 square miles. The government of Haiti has proposed a massive complex of vacation villas and hotels that will be fed by the expansion of one airport and the construction of another. The renovation of Antoine-Simon Airport, in Les Cayes, began earlier this year and will host International Flights from the US, Europe and Latin America. Another, more controversial airport, is being debated for Ile-a-Vache. Currently visitors make a short 30 minute ferry ride to reach the island, but for some reason officials think boarding another plane would be more palatable to tourists. So instead of a 30 minute cruise, one would take a 10 minute flight in the likes of a Saab 340. Personally I’d take Rum Punch and a view from the upper deck of a boat, before I’d cram myself into a small prop plane with 20 other tired, smelly tourists. Don’t over think this one Haiti.
The bottom line is that 75% of the ingredients for Haiti to compete globally, for tourism dollars, are already present. Natural Beauty, Local Culture and the Search for the Unknown are what drives us to travel. With these elements already in place, I believe that Haiti will one day be a player in the Caribbean. Only time will tell but I have some images that may make you a believer.
The Captain is an American Airlines Ex Platinum, whose work as an Export Manger, takes him to places far and many times remote. From Guyana to Palestine to UAE to Trinidad and everywhere in between, he loves to dive head first into the local culture though food, music, politics and traditions. Boarding Area readers will be able to take the magical journey, along with the Captain, through his words and pictures on Points, Miles and Martinis.
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