Is Tourism Haiti’s Magic Bullet?


Above: Haiti (Photo: MT Haiti)

By the Caribbean Journal staff

As Haiti moves to develop its long-ignored tourism sector, revenue generated from the sector is “critical” as external aid lessens, according to the Igarapé Institute.

But the prospects for tourism remain “highly uncertain,” the Institute said, cautioning that Haiti needed to be mindful of both the kinds of tourists visiting the country and the impact of tourism on the local population.

The Brazil-based Institute recently released a Strategic Note by called “Is Tourism Haiti’s Magic Bullet,” which surveyed tourists currently visiting the country about their experiences.

Indeed, Haiti has not been shy about its efforts to return the country to its place as a Caribbean vacation destination — but what about those tourists who are already making the trip?

The Institute surveyed 2,231 tourists with a response rate of about 75 percent, with several primary findings:

  • the primary reason tourists visit Haiti right now is to “see family or friends or to volunteer in aid development projects”
  • violent crime was “rarely” experienced by tourists, in spite of travel warnings
  • the perception of Haiti as a safe place to visit “positively changed from arrival to departure and overall tourists felt safer than expected during their stay
  • interactions with “ordinary Haitians” were called the “most meaningful part” of most tourists’ trips.

In recent months, Haiti’s government has been pushing Diaspora tourism to start, with an eye toward branching out toward non-Haitians, like many of those who have been arriving to the country through Transat vacation packages.

For now, the Institute said, nearly half of tourists to the country are working class, and as Haiti develops the sector, it would be well served by accommodating that demographic.

The Institute recommended, though, hat Haiti be wary of the potential for “commodification” of the country’s culture.

“With a rich history and vibrant culture, Haiti has much to offer visitors,” the Institute said. “But tourism efforts to harness the potential presented by Haitian culture need to be mindful of possible commodification of Haiti’s culture.”

The note was written by Athena Kolbe, Keely Brookes and Robert Muggah.

To see the full note, click here:

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