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28496: Tjpershing: Re: 28493: ClayKilgore (wondering): 2nd Annual Haiti Summit (fwd)

From: tjpershing@aol.com

Having spent quite a bit of time in some of Haiti's venerable tiurist establishments, from the Ollofson, Manoir Alexander, Hotel Christophe I tried, in the 1990's to sell a travel piece under the title below. Not surprisingly, no takers- when I tried to move a environmental piece on the wildlife of Haiti ( Flamingoes, American crocodile in Etang Saumatre, endemic orioles on Pic Macaya (along with dozens of endemic plants and amphibians) I recieved a response from Natural History magazine's editor stating that "our sources say there is no wildlife Haiti".
Her's my thoughts on a marketing approach for Haiti Tourism- Tim

The Island of Lost Resorts

In the 1950âs, Haiti was a prime Caribbean tourist destination - once visited by Vice-President Richard Nixon (with a photograph of that high point still hanging in the once grand Hotel Ibo Leleâs now lonely foyer). In the 1960âs and 70âs, the place attracted a hip, worldly crowd, from the author Graham Greene to Mick Jagger. Plush resorts dotted the white sand beaches between Port au Prince and St. Marc. The north coast town of Cap Haitian, with its world heritage worthy San Souci and Citadel fortress attracted those interested in the history of the oldest black republic in the world. Since the rough scrabble attempts at democracy began in the mid 1980âs, Haitiâs tourist industry has succumbed to the tattering image of the news of violent politics, Aids, abject poverty and coups- leaving the once grand tourist destinations like the Hotel Ollofson reliant on Jourism- that irregular influx of journalists and members of the âinternational communityâ such as the UN that proliferate during crisis periods. In this more hopeful time, with the election of a new President and Parliament, regaining a piece of the international tourism market is critical to Haitiâs economic development. The Second Annual Haiti Tourism and Economic Development Summit will take place in Miami on June 24 and 25. These are a few of the things they should be discussing. â While traditional resort tourism such as the now shuttered Club Med and the cruise ship stop at Labadie are attractive, this is not the way to rebuild Haitiâs tourism industry. Much like an economic development zone in an urban area, the first folk to enter old industrial or rundown districts are the younger and more adventurous. International marketing of Haitiâs tourism should take the long-term approach and look to adventure travel and twenty something travelers- they will form the backbone of an industry with legs. Eco-lodges, such as the one in Seguin, should be encouraged. â Haiti has two commodities unparalleled in other Caribbean destinations- a unique, vibrant and potent cultural history/contemporary cultural arts experience and a beautiful vibrant land untouched in most places by the hand of commercial development found in places like Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Cancun and even Cuba. â Couple these first two points by focusing on college age adventure travelers- eco-travel, and the Haitian Diaspora (Slogan: Come Back to Haiti, again). â Focus tourism efforts on smaller towns and regional destinations- Jacmel, with its vibrant art scene, cultural events, well known Carnival, safe streets and the beautiful natural attractions- Jeremie, a town lost in time but rich in independent heritage and coastal beauty- Les Cayes, gateway to the beaches of the south west coast, its islands, and the potential eco-tourist Mecca, the towering Pic Macaya-Cap Haitian, Haitiâs second city, rich in archeological, architectural and natural splendor- and also the portal to the remote regions of the north coast, where 18th century canons can still be found protruding from empty untouched beaches.

Many in the Haitian Diaspora have had little physical contact with Haiti, and see it more as a place to send monetary support than vacation- they can and should, however, do both. Marketing to the North American College crowd as an inexpensive, culturally interesting, physically beautiful alternative for those not interested in traditional pack mentality âSpring Breakâ destinations is another option. (Advertisement: empty beach- riding a tap tap, diving into a waterfall- âHaiti, definitely not Daytona, just like youâ). Haiti should be a vacation destination of primary interest to the North American black community, but remains off the radar. With the recent publicity from Wyclef Jean, and Dany Glover (who plans on filming the Life of Haitian founding father Toussaint Louveture) the cultural and historical interests of Haiti should be a particularly salient attraction.

Infrastructural elements need to be improved; the new air transport system is key to moving around Haiti; it should be enhanced, regional airports upgraded with quality air control and communications, and âairpassesâ offered as inducement to visit more than one destination.. The use of water taxis in places like Jacmel, Les Cayes and Jeremie should be explored.

From the flamingoes of Lake Sumatre and the pine forests of the Morne de la Salle, to the fortress of the Citadel, and the deep Caribbean beauty of Haitiâs beaches and cultural arts, the âpearl of the Antillesâ has a wealth of delights and insights for the world to explore. Overcoming the negative market image perpetrated by the media will be difficult. However, if the political class gets down to work and refrains from conflict- the rest will follow. If you build it, they will come; and as anyone knows who has been to Haiti, you never really leave.

Timothy Pershing