During a very successful tourism panel at NAAHP Conference yesterday some fundamental questions are asked by several attendees. Mrs. Widline Compere got my attention with the following questions; How do we encourage people to travel to Haiti? And how do we change the perception people have about Haiti? Stephanie Barnes, the director of sales at the Marriott Haiti, was very direct and precise: It will start with you! Ask any people from the Caribbean where do you think I should go on vacation? They will automatically refer you to their own country” Stephanie said.
A panel full of passion and questions, but a very open discussion needed for the advancement of the tourism sector. Tourism will not be thriving in Haiti without the involvement of all stakeholders, or the actors of the tourism ecosystem that includes; investors, entrepreneurs, business people, political leaders and most importantly consumers. While 25 million tourists visit the Caribbean every year, Haiti has received less than a million, a high number of this group are people from the Haitian Diaspora looking to have a good time. However, since there is no defined tourism product for their specific, it becomes difficult for this group to explore the country.
The Diaspora according to recent studies can be the primary market for the Haitian Tourism, with the growth of internet they are more connected than ever before. But are we ready to take advantage of this potential Market? Carlo Chancelien, a Market Manager for Booking.com understand the market is changing, he often travels through the Caribbean, and the states to connect potential customers with their different Caribbean products. In his new article “Diaspora Tourism: an Untapped opportunity for Haiti” he proposed that the Minister of Tourism and the Minister of Haitian Living Abroad work on a joint plan to attract and motivate the Diaspora to visit and invest in Haiti
If we can not engage the diaspora, it will be difficult to attract foreign tourists to come to Haiti. Local tourists and Diaspora are the keys to a sustainable tourism development in Haiti, but it is not something that can be done without developing a healthy tourism ecosystem that allows investors, innovators, state representative and businesses to work together to build the Haiti tourism of tomorrow. A thriving tourism industry will start with us