Many of you are probably not aware but next Thursday, January 12, marks the second anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Two years later and sadly, very little has changed there. Although other countries that suffered catastrophic natural disasters recently (Thailand and Indonesia in the 2004 tsunami and earthquake) saw their tourism industry rebound fairly quickly, it was not to be in Haiti. Why? Because for decades there hasn’t been anything remotely near to a tourism industry in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation. Many people that travel to Haiti, before and after the 2010 earthquake, usually do so for humanitarian reasons. Although Haiti shares the island of Hispanola with the Dominican Republic, Haiti is nothing like its neighbor. While the Spanish speaking side of Hispanola receives thousands of foreign visitors from the United States and Europe each year, anxious to flock to its pearly white sand beaches and laid back environment, internal strife, crippling poverty, and continual violence is usually what keeps people away from Haiti’s own pearly white sand beaches. However, I wanted to write this post to remind people that at one time Haiti was a destination that foreign visitors did flock to.
English author Graham Greene traveled to Haiti which was where his 1966 novel The Comedians took place. While in the capital city of Port-au-Prince he stayed at the Hotel Oloffson, a 19th century Gothic gingerbread mansion. It is said to have served as the inspiration for the fictional Hotel Trianon in The Comedians. In early 2011, Anthony Bourdain who is host of the Travel Channel’s No Reservations television show traveled to Haiti for the premiere episode of his seventh season. Bourdain also stayed at the Hotel Oloffson. The hotel did not suffer serious damage in the earthquake and continues to operate today.
Haiti and its people continue to have the longest uphill battle ahead of them including building its tourism industry. However, for many developing nations, tourism is what has given them the strength to survive, to grow and even to prosper. Although it’s easy to forget about a country that suffered a devastating natural disaster once the reporters and celebrities have gone away, Haiti still needs your thoughts and prayers so please take a moment of silence to remember the dead and living next Thursday at 4:53 PM Eastern Time.