PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — A second international-branded hotel opened Tuesday in the Haitian capital in what backers of the project and officials hope will be a spur to further economic development in the impoverished country.
The 175-room Marriott Port-au-Prince is a four-star hotel geared primarily toward travelers looking to do business in Haiti, said Denis O’Brien, chairman of Digicel, the telecommunications company that developed the project adjacent to its Haiti headquarters in the Turgeau neighborhood of the capital.
“If a foreign direct investor is going to Haiti, they have to have a good first impression,” O’Brien, whose company is the largest private employer in Haiti, said in an interview before the event. “Normally, American foreign direct investors like to stay in an American-branded hotel.”
Digicel invested $45 million and contracted with Marriott to operate it. O’Brien, an Irish billionaire whose company recently completed building 150 schools in Haiti and restored the historic Iron Market that was damaged in the January 2010 earthquake, said the hotel will directly create about 200 jobs, but that he hopes it will lead to more.
A ceremony to mark the opening of the hotel drew President Michel Martelly, Prime Minister Evans Paul and former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Actor Sean Penn, who has been criticized for what some felt was an insensitive joke about Mexican-born Oscar-winner Alejandro Inarritu’s immigration status during at the Academy Awards on Sunday, also attended the event but declined to speak with The Associated Press.
In March 2013, the Best Western in the Petionville district of the capital became the first internationally branded hotel since Holiday Inn left in 1998 as the country’s tumultuous political situation caused the collapse of the economy. Last year, Hilton Worldwide announced it would open a hotel in the country in 2016.