Above: the new Marriott Port-au-Prince
By the Caribbean Journal staff
A major new hotel has opened its doors in Haiti.
But while it’s a major boost for the country’s nascent tourism hopes, it might also be something else: a new way to envision the role and design of a Caribbean hotel.
Partners Digicel and Marriott have opened the new Marriott Port-au-Prince, a 175-room property that could become a model for future hotel development in the region.
The hotel, which is the product of a $45 million investment by the Digicel Group, is emphasizing the local community at nearly every stage, from sourcing goods, food and amenities from local businesses and artisans to a weekly art market where guests can buy works by local artists.
Major shoe company TOMS is making shoes in Haiti for the property’s staff; 100 percent of the hotel’s coffee comes from Haitian company Rebo Coffee; the hotel’s produce is sourced from Afe Neg Combite, a co-op of 5,500 farmers in Haiti; even the hotel’s soaps are made by local producer Ayiti Natives.
The property even has its own art curator: Philippe Dodard.
Among its more “traditional” amenities are a pool, 6,500 square feet of meeting space, a bar and restaurant both called :a Sirene, a fitness centre and a sundries shop.
The hotel is located in the Haut Turgau area of the capital.
The sustainability extends to the hotel’s construction, which includes an energy-efficient diesel plant complemented by a 1-megawatt solar farm; 60 percent of the hotel’s hot water supply is delivered through thermal solar panels on the roof.
And in a region that is increasingly concerned with sustainable tourism development, the Marriott example in Haiti could be a lesson for the Caribbean hotel industry.
“All along, we’ve said that we were committed to Haiti’s recovery and to delivering on its potential as a great place to invest, and as such, we are thrilled to be opening the doors of the Marriott Port-au-Prince here today,” said Digicel Group Chairman Denis O’Brien. “We hope that the opening of the hotel will signal that Haiti is truly open for business and is ready to welcome investors and travelers alike.”
The idea for the hotel was born four years ago, when Marriott and the Clinton Foundation discussed a proposed hotel to boost the country’s renewed tourism efforts. That led to the partnership with Digicel.
“The opening of the Marriott Port-au-Prince is an important milestone as the people of Haiti work to revitalize and diversify their economy,” former US President Bill Clinton said in a statement. “I am grateful to Marriott and Digicel for their commitment to this project, and hope that its success will inspire further investment and opportunity in Haiti.”
Most crucially, the hotel has created 200 permanent jobs, following the creation of 1,100 jobs during construction.
“We believe we can make a difference in Haiti by promoting tourism, and developing local talent that can help lift this country, over time, back to being one of the top travel destinations in the Caribbean,” said Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson.
The hotel’s official opening is March 1.