Apple Leisure Group CEO Alejandro Zozaya announced last night that Apple affiliates are now offering vacations in Haiti. “Haiti is the next great destination in the Caribbean,” he said, noting its beauty, culture, beaches, and people.
Indeed, Haiti’s sudden expansion of tourism in the past three and a half years has been unprecedented. Tourism Minister Stephanie Balmir Villedrouin noted the extensive renovations at airports, the restoration of Haiti’s inimitable historic sites (e.g. the Citadel), new hotels (and a Marriott will be opening Feb. 25), the training and licensing of taxi drivers approved to pick up tourists, and the creation of a designated tourism police force, etc. The results, in this country that had dropped off the tourism map, are already apparent: In 2013 the number of stayovers leaped nearly 18 percent, and in 2014, almost 11 percent.
“Bad news sells, but good news, you have to pay for that,” quipped the Counsel General, as he and Villedrouin unveiled yet another initiative to boost travel: the new “Haiti: Experience It” commercials that will run on major cable stations in the New York Metropolitan Area. It’s the first such advertising campaign Haiti has ever run. New York, of course, was an obvious choice because it is so well served by Delta Air Lines and other carriers. Incidentally, JetBlue, which already connects to Port-au-Prince from JFK and Fort Lauderdale, initiated seasonal flights to Haiti from Boston yesterday.
“Cotes de Fer in the South has huge potential,” said Zozaya. A slideshow to his left showed a long, white beach lined with coconut trees, and behind it, unspoiled, verdant hills. It was the sort of scene that might arouse any hotelier.
In a private conversation with Zozaya and Dan Marmontello, Caribbean product manager, Zozaya reiterated his enthusiasm about Haiti. “In a few years, this is going to be like Punta Cana,” he declared. “You visit Haiti to experience a place in the Caribbean that’s really unspoiled, where the food and everything else is incredible,” he added. The CEO of Apple, whose subsidiaries include AMResorts, Amstar, Apple Vacations, CheapCaribbean.com, Travel Impressions, and Unlimited Vacation Club, said he envisions new resorts and residences with thousands of rooms, and he anticipates scheduling charter flights.
Meanwhile, CheapCaribbean just put one hotel (Moulin Sur Mer Beach Resort) on its website, and there are already bookings. Marmontello said that other properties are under contract now, and “very soon we’ll be offering 10 or so hotels in Haiti.”