Haiti Readies for 2013 Tourism Push

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - January 1, 2013

Above: Jacmel (Photo: MT Haiti)

By Alexander Britell

Haiti Tourism Minister Stephanie Villedrouin has unveiled a series of priority projects on which her ministry plans to work in 2013.

Highlighting the list are potential agreements with Delta, Air France and Air Transat for the promotion of tourism packages. In fact, Canada’s Transat, has already announced plans to offer vacation packages to Haiti.

Haiti will also be promoting the country as a destination at tourism fairs in New York, Montreal, Guadeloupe and the Dominican Republic, according to Villedrouin. (Guadeloupe, along with Martinique, has been of particular interest to the Ministry as fellow Francophone islands; late in 2012, the country brought over a group of travel agents from Guadeloupe in a bid to bring more business from the French departments.)

This year, the Ministry plans to open a tourism training institute in Les Cayes.

The country additionally will continue work on airport construction in Les Cayes and Ile a Vache. Haiti has high hopes for the tourism potential of Ile a Vache, Haiti Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told Caribbean Journal in an interview last month.

The country plans to open a “professional cuisine laboratory” with a restaurant component in Port-au-Prince. That’s part of a push by the Ministry to promote Haiti’s cuisine; the latest manifestation was the launch of a series of videos focusing on Haiti’s gastronomy by world-renowned Chef Jose Andres, who will be returning to Haiti for more filming work this year.

Villedrouin said Haiti planned to implement a “tourist police” as well, ostensibly to protect some of the country’s more popular tourism areas.

Early in 2013, the Best Western Haiti is slated to open, which will add another 600 new rooms to the country’s hotel stock, following the debut last month of the five-star Royal Oasis in Petionville, a hotel managed by Spanish firm Occidental.

Last year, the focus was first to start rebranding Haiti’s tourism image, Villedrouin told Caribbean Journal.

The plan was to reshape Haiti in the minds of foreign visitors — and slowly begin to return to the vacation destination Haiti was decades ago.

That led to everything from a billboard on I-95 in Miami promoting Haiti, to a new logo and ad campaign: “Experience It.”

Now, the challenge is for Haiti to turn start turning the new campaign into more visitors, particularly in light of a newly-issued travel warning from the US State Department.

“The task is daunting and we recognize the magnitude of the challenges,” Villedrouin said in a statement. “However, we believe that the dawn of prosperity and stability begins to shine on the face of this country we cherish and love so much.”

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