Seven Reasons Why Haiti Is Ready for U.S. Tourists

Citadelle Laferrière is a large mountaintop fortress 17 miles south of Cap Haitien in northern Haiti.
Citadelle Laferrière is a large mountaintop fortress 17 miles south of Cap Haitien in northern Haiti.

For the first time since a devastating earthquake rocked the small Caribbean island five years ago, Haiti is now ready to welcome U.S. tourists. Here’s a recap of the some of the recent and most significant tourism-related news out of Haiti that could entice your clients to visit.

Marriott Port-au-Prince Opens

The new Marriott Port-au-Prince Hotel in Haiti recently checked in its first guests during a soft opening in March and will have a formal grand opening in June. The journey to build this new property began four years ago when Marriott International reached out to former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s Clinton Foundation to propose a new hotel to help Haiti rebuild its tourism industry after the devastating earthquake in 2010. The company found an eager partner in Digicel Group, which has invested $45 million to build the hotel in the Haut Turgeau area of Haiti’s capital city. It has 170 rooms, plus five suites, with Marriott’s signature amenities and features.

Hilton Making Move in 2016

Scheduled to open in 2016, the new Hilton Garden Inn Port-au-Prince Louverture Airport will be the first from Hilton and its Garden Inn brand in Haiti. The forthcoming hotel will be in the airport’s industrial park area, acting as the only internationally branded hotel at the airport. Staff will be available onsite at the airport complex to welcome travelers and arrange transfers. The property will have 152 guest rooms including eight suites, all outfitted with bedding, LCD high-definition flat-screen TV, alarm clock with MP3 connectivity, a work desk, and a “hospitality center” with a mini refrigerator and coffeemaker. Dining options will include a full-service restaurant and lobby lounge offering cooked-to-order breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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Visitors to Jacmel on Haiti’s southern coast will have the opportunity to buy art and handicrafts, most popular of which are bright paper-mache masks and painted woodwork.
Visitors to Jacmel on Haiti’s southern coast will have the opportunity to buy art and handicrafts, most popular of which are bright paper-mache masks and painted woodwork.

G Adventures: Selling Out Fast

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, which concluded February 21, was sold out immediately. The 10-day tour is, however, also available July 4, November 21 and December 5. G Adventures also says it will offer five more tours to Haiti in 2016, departing on February 20, March 12, July 2, November 19 and December 3.

Included in the trips will be tours to a rum distillery, a kasav-making cooking demonstration and a visit to the Bassin-Bleu pools.

New Hotel Partnerships

CheapCaribbean.com, an online resource for vacation deals to the Caribbean and Mexico, expanded its footprint in February to include Haiti by launching its first hotel partnership, teaming with Moulin Sur Mer.

Executives at CheapCaribbean.com have spent the last few months visiting Haiti to inspect hotels in Port-au-Prince and the resort town of Cote des Arcadins and establish ground operations to ensure seamless travel experiences for vacationers.

“Agents should be targeting couples or families who are adventurous and are looking for a destination that offers a rich culture, adventurous excursions and incredible culinary experience, all at a great price,” says Dan Marmontello, Caribbean product manager for CheapCaribbean.com. “The destination offers much more than sun and sand. It boasts a local art and rich culinary scene that is influenced by French and Creole gastronomists.”

The 68-room Moulin Sur Mer has a marina and a PADI diving center that offer excursions to beautiful spots in the area or nearby islands, and also diving courses. The property’s onsite restaurant, overlooking the bay, serves local and international cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

La Sirene Bar at the Marriott Port-au-Prince Hotel offers international top-branded cocktails, soft drinks and complimentary Wi-Fi.
La Sirene Bar at the Marriott Port-au-Prince Hotel offers international top-branded cocktails, soft drinks and complimentary Wi-Fi.

The resort is within walking distance from the Ogier-Fombrun Museum, an authentic sugarcane plantation that was restored by Haitian sculptor and architect Gerard Fombrun. The museum provides stories dating from the pre-Columbus Indian era to colonial times, when Haiti was the largest producer of sugar in the Caribbean.

Travel Agent was given the scoop on other partnerships CheapCaribbean.com has recently secured in Haiti, including the Karibe Hotel, the Marriott Port-au-Prince, Club Indigo and Kaliko Beach Club.

Pleasant Holidays Eyes Haiti

Fresh off the delivery of Pleasant Holidays’ 2015/2016 Caribbean brochure, we chatted with Jack E. Richards, the company’s 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, which recently added Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, for 2015/2016, is seriously considering including Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago to its Caribbean portfolio.

Richards told us more recently that Pleasant Holidays has since sent several scouts to Haiti to study the destination’s tourism potential.

Boost From Sunrise Airways

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. New hotel construction and redevelopment programs 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 Haitian government 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.

Best Western Was the First

In 2013, the opening of the 106-room Best Western Premier Petion-Ville (just outside of the capital) marked the first U.S.-branded, full-service hotel in Haiti. It provides lodging and meeting space for financial, government and humanitarian organizations, as well as business and leisure travelers. Funded by two Haitian banks, the hotel created 130 local hospitality jobs. More than 100 local artisans and craftsmen contributed to its design and decor, and many of their works are for sale in the hotel’s art gallery.

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