Now that travel to Cuba is officially opening up to the United States, the once-forbidden island is on every Caribbean-bound traveler's must-see list.
But what about Haiti?
For the first time since a devastating earthquake rocked the small Caribbean island five years ago, Haiti, in our opinion, is now ready to welcome U.S. tourists.
Now, there were never any legal restrictions on visiting the island like there were for Cuba, but the island simply lacked the offerings and tourism product to attract U.S. clients. Also, the devastating earthquake not only claimed thousands of lives, but halted a major tourism push Haiti planned to make in the U.S. that year. And that push appears to no longer be on hold.
Here's a recap of the some of the recent tourism-related news out of Haiti that could entice clients to visit.
CheapCaribbean.Com Announces New Hotel Partnership in Haiti
CheapCaribbean.com, an online resource for vacation deals to the Caribbean and Mexico, expanded its footprint this week to include Haiti by launching its first hotel partnership with Moulin Sur Mer.
Executives at CheapCaribbean.com have spent the last few months visiting Haiti to inspect hotels in both Port-au-Prince and the resort town of Cote des Arcadins and establish ground operations to ensure seamless travel experiences for vacationers.
To launch their Haiti vacation offerings, CheapCaribbean.com has partnered with Moulin Sur Mer, a colonial-style beach resort in Montrouis. This beach resort features a beautiful groomed garden, an outdoor swimming pool, a restaurant, bars and free Wi-Fi.
Moulin Sur Mer features a marina and a PADI diving center that offer excursions to beautiful spots in the area or nearby islands and PADI diving courses. The property has an on-site restaurant that serves local and international cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The resort is also within walking distance to the Ogier-Fombrun Museum, an authentic sugar cane plantation that was restored by famous Haitian sculptor and architect Gerard Fombrun. The museum provides stories dating from the pre-Columbus Indian era to colonial times, when Haiti used to be the largest producer of sugar in the Caribbean.
G Adventures' First Trip to Haiti Sells Out
In December, Travel Agent spoke with representatives of G Adventures, and learned that the company's new tours to Haiti are creating a major buzz among travelers.
In fact, we were told the company's first-ever trip there, slated for February 21, is completely sold out. The 10-day tour is, however, also available March 14, July 4, November 21 and December 5.
Included in the trips will be tours to a rum distillery, a Kasav-making demonstration and a visit to the Bassin-Bleu pools.
G Adventures' relationship with the destination began after the company assisted the country following the devastating earthquake of 2010, says Steve Lima, G Adventures' U.S. marketing manager. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, G Adventures flew cargo planes full of food, diapers and tents.
Pleasant Holidays Is Looking to Offer Haiti in 2016
Fresh off the delivery of Pleasant Holidays' 2015/2016 Caribbean brochure, Travel Agent chatted with Jack E. Richards, Pleasant Holidays' president and CEO, and got the skinny on some possible Caribbean destinations the tour operator would like to add for the 2016/2017 brochure.
Pleasant Holidays, which recently added Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, for the 2015/2016 brochure, is seriously considering adding both Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago to its portfolio of Caribbean islands.
"We would really like to offer Haiti, but we really need to make sure they are ready," Richards says of the destination's ongoing efforts to make a huge push to the American tourism market.
Richards said plans call for someone at Pleasant Holidays to scout the island in 2015 to assess Haiti's progress.
Hilton Becomes Latest Hotel Brand to Move Into Haiti
Scheduled to open in 2016, the new Hilton Garden Inn Port-au-Prince Louverture Airport will be the first from Hilton and the Hilton Garden Inn brand in Haiti. The move follows Marriott's recent expansion into Haiti with the Marriott Hotel Port Au Prince, which is scheduled to open in March 2015.
The new Hilton Garden Inn Port-au-Prince Louverture Airport will be in the airport's industrial park area, acting as the only internationally branded hotel at the airport. Staff will be available on-site at the airport complex to welcome travelers and arrange transportation from the airport to the property.
The Hilton Garden Inn Port-au-Prince Louverture Airport will be designed in line with the Hilton Garden Inn Latin America prototype, incorporating both the brand's standards and local elements. The property will have 152 guestrooms including eight suites, all outfitted with bedding, LCD high-definition flatscreen television, alarm clock with MP3 connectivity, a work desk and a “hospitality center” with a mini refrigerator and coffee maker.
Dining options will include a full service restaurant and lobby lounge offering cooked-to-order breakfast, lunch and dinner. The hotel will also offer the 24-hour Pavilion Pantry shop with a selection of ready-made meals, beverages and snacks. Recreational facilities will include an outdoor swimming pool and a complimentary fitness center with cardio and strength training equipment by Precor.
The hotel will also have meeting space with a pre-function area, three flexible meeting rooms and one boardroom, as well as complimentary Wi-Fi and a 24-hour business center.
Sunrise Airways Partners With Haiti Ministry of Tourism to Boost Tourist Arrivals
Sunrise Airways, Haiti’s newest homegrown airline, and the Haiti Ministry of Tourism recently announced they have signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to boost tourism arrivals to Haiti.
Under terms of the MOU, Sunrise Airways and the Ministry of Tourism will work in close collaboration to host familiarization trips to Haiti undertaken by international travel journalists, agents, business development partners and other interested parties keen on promoting or investing in the country’s tourism industry.
New hotel construction and redevelopment programs have combined with airport expansion initiatives, new hospitality education and training programs, the advent of a dedicated tourism police force, and the opening of several new visitor attraction centers at key historical sites to revitalize Haiti’s tourism industry. All told, current tourism sector investment by the Government of Haiti and foreign investors exceeds $258 million.
In addition to inaugurating new routes across the Western Caribbean in 2013, Sunrise Airways also achieved several significant corporate milestones. Most notably, in July 2013 Sunrise Airways became the first-ever Haitian airline to join the Flight Safety Foundation, an international non-profit organization whose purpose is to provide independent safety guidance and resources for the aviation and aerospace industry.
JetBlue Launches Daily Non-Stop Service to Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Back in 2013, JetBlue Airways launched daily nonstop service from both New York City and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
From Toussaint Louverture International Airport, JetBlue is offering one daily nonstop flight to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and twice daily flights to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL).
First U.S. Branded, Full-Service Hotel Opens in Haiti
In 2013, the opening of the 106-room Best Western Premier Petion-Ville marked the first U.S. branded full-service hotel to open in Haiti.
The hotel is located in the business area north of Port-au-Prince and provides lodging and meeting space for financial and government institutions, humanitarian organizations, non-government organizations and business and leisure travelers visiting the country.
The full-service luxury hotel project, funded by two Haitian banks, Unibank and Capital Bank, broke ground in 2011 with the goal of investing in the local community, providing jobs and sourcing Haitian goods and services to build and furnish the hotel. The result of the project created 130 local hospitality jobs and the work of more than 100 local artisans and craftsmen used in the design and décor of the hotel and also available for sale in the hotel's art gallery.
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