More than 60 years ago, President Dumarsais Estime established a National Tourism Office whose main function was the coordination of existing enterprises and initiatives of interest to tourists. This new office became a division of the ministry of Foreign Affairs headed by an under-secretary of state. There were no consideration for a coordinated national undertaking and the office had no regulatory authority.
Assisting the under-secretary of state were a bureau chief, an accountant a typist/secretary, and a welcome agent at the airport. There was also an office with a director in Cap-Haitien and another in Jacmel. Then came the international exposition celebrating the bi-centennial of Port-au-Prince. To activate the promotion of this exceptional event, the Tourist Office contracted the services of an agent in New York where the Haitian government opened an exhibition office.
The bi-centennial exposition featured a luminous fountain, the reproduction of the Milot church, a new Legislative building, a new Post Office, a new Tourist Office building, some foreign embassy’s constructions, a casino, a few restaurants and the open-air green theater that was built in record time by architect Albert Mangones in the middle of the “Parc des Palmistes”. It was also and where a National Folklore Troupe interpreted every night Haitian traditional dances under the direction of Jean Leon Destine with the talented participation of TiRoro, Lumane Casumir and the Jazz des Jeunes.
For about two years, the Exhibition City became the main attraction of Port-au-Prince, although the tourists were encouraged to take a promenade to Kenscoff, a visit at the Citadelle Laferrière, near Cap-Haitien, and a dip at Raymond-les-bains in Jacmel. The personnel of the office increased with interpreters, secretaries and facilitators. The number of foreign visitors increased also from 7,000 in 1947 to 70,000 four years later.
Since then, the National Tourist Office has moved from the ministry of foreign affairs to the ministry of commerce, to an autonomous agency, and to a distinct ministry, sometimes associated with culture and protection of national patrimony. However, as much good all this may look, and little results that may have gained, tourism in Haiti is not yet considered as a commercial product that cannot be simply packaged separately, but that must be sustained by a supportive national environment.
The current minister of tourism would like apparently to take new initiatives, hopefully to bring more visitors to the country, mainly to Jacmel and to the Citadelle, by negotiating with the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines that brings tourists to the beach of Labadie near Cap-Haitian, under a 50-year contract that gives exclusive use of the beach to the company that is exploiting it under the registered name of Labadee in Hispanola.
Now, tourism minister Patrick Delatour would like to open the gate of the fence that limit access to the beach of Labadie from the mainland and build a road to the Citadelle for the thousands of tourists on board of the ship. This is a difficult undertaking that requires good planning and preparation. First, the road must be safe. There must be enough clean sanitary facilities at various locations in the Citadelle. Depending on the length of the visits, there should be some rest areas, with snacks, refreshments and excellent service.
There again, this will be extremely difficult to realize without the cooperation and support of influential business concerns, foreign governments and institutions. The insurance company that guarantee the safety of the passengers on board of the ship is the main agency to be convinced. That involves a lot of influential businesses and agencies.
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