Last updated: 12:00 PM ET, Wed November 18 2015

Caribbean Insights: Inside Haiti’s Rise

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | November 18, 2015

Caribbean Insights: Inside Haiti’s Rise

Many North Americans view Haiti as an impoverished, dangerous nation, certainly not the type of Caribbean destination they would first — if ever — opt to visit. Those descriptions are accurate to some degree, although they could easily describe parts of some international cities travelers flock to each year. Perception is relative.

Still, despite tremendous odds, Haiti’s Ministry of Tourism and Creative Industries (MTIC), is making significant progress in re-establishing the country’s briefly held status as a major Caribbean vacation destination.

Over the past four years, MTIC has forged partnerships with hoteliers and entrepreneurs to develop $345 million in investment projects tied to tourism and related services. The projects include large-scale initiatives to improve existing sites and tourist infrastructure in Haitian districts including Ile-a-Vache, Cotes-de-Fer, Jacmel, Ile de la Tortue, Cap-Haitien and Cote des Arcadins, and the addition of 2,180 new hotel rooms around the country.

The country’s hotel base is already surprisingly diverse and features several options suited to North American tastes, including the Marriott Port au Prince, which opened earlier this year. Last year MTIC launched a hotel classification system that utilizes the country’s national flower (and tourism logo), the hibiscus. The Karibe Hotel and Convention Center, the Inn at Villa Bambou, the Royal Oasis, the NH El Rancho and the Best Western Premier hotels have all earned a five-hibiscus rating.

In and around the upscale Petion-Ville suburb are a variety of art galleries and restaurants. Established tour operators including Canada’s G Adventures and a handful of well-informed locally based guides are available to accompany travelers around sites from downtown Port au Prince to the historic Iron Market and the artist colonies in Jacmel and Noailles.

Haiti’s Tourism officials have dealt openly with the country’s unique legacy, starting with its establishment as the first nation to originate from a successful slave revolt, to the brutal dictatorships, U.S. occupation, Duvalier despotism and years of political turmoil that followed.

Haitians are a proud and determined people who largely embrace their struggle, and the country’s past as a trendy tourism destination in the 1940s and again for a time in the 1970s has established a tradition of welcoming visitors.

Moreover the country’s compelling past is expertly documented at what are some of the best museums in the entire Caribbean, from the Musee du Pantheon National Haitien in downtown Port au Prince Port to the Musee de Ogier-Frombrum in the Haitian beach district of Cote des Arcadins.

One need only examine the numbers to track MTIC’s success. Haiti hosted 465,174 overnight visitors in 2014 according to Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) data. The figure is a 10.8 percent increase over 2013 and outpaces other established Caribbean destinations including Antigua, Belize, Curacao, Grenada, St. Lucia and the Turks & Caicos. It’s time to recognize Haiti as another jewel among the Caribbean’s treasures.

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