The newly renovated seaside of the city of Jacmel Haiti. Photo: Port-au-Princien

By Carlo Chancelien

“Diasporas can help open markets for new tourist destinations in their countries of heritage.” -Malina Dumas, International Diaspora Engagement Alliance (IDEA)

Over the past years, tourism has greatly evolved as an activity solely reserved for the elite and the most fortunate. It has become a significant social and economic phenomenon in today’s world. Travelers these days have different profiles and showcase a wide range of diverse interests and needs regarding motivations to travel. More recently, creative tourism has gained popularity as a form of cultural tourism—drawing on active participation by travelers in the culture of the host communities they visit.

Diaspora Tourism:

Diaspora tourism comes in many shapes and forms, including family visits, heritage or “roots” tourism, among other renditions. Regardless of the purpose of their travels, diaspora members are more likely to infuse money into the local economy when traveling to their country of heritage than most international tourists. Diasporas can help open markets for new tourist destinations in their countries of heritage. As diaspora tourists travel to less-frequented regions to connect with friends and family or participate in various cultural events, they will promote the creation of new attractions, including general services for tourists outside of the major cities. The same diaspora tourists might later choose to invest in local businesses in the region after making connections on their visits. They will likely become natural ambassadors for the discovered destinations, influence others to visit through social media, word of mouth, and may later become more involved with local community projects.

The Role of the Haitian Government:

The Haitian diaspora is estimated at roughly 2 million people, sending almost US $3 billion yearly in remittances to Haiti, according to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which represents the equivalent of more than half of Haiti’s gross national product (GNP). The Ministry of Tourism, along with the Ministry of Haitians Living Abroad (MHAVE), could develop a joint plan to attract and motivate the Haitian diaspora to visit. This way, diaspora Haitians have a way to establish an emotional connection with Haiti.

Among the many ways and means of capitalizing on the previously mentioned opportunity, I suggest the following to the Haitian government to develop diaspora tourism:

  • Offering educational and cultural exchange programs to the Haitian diaspora
  • Developing a campaign targeting middle-class Haitians living abroad
  • Working with airlines, hotels, airports, and authorities to make entry to Haiti easier and cheaper

The above mentioned could make the Haitian diaspora more eager to rediscover and reconnect with their country of origin and would ultimately result in an increase in revenue for the Haitian economy, including a growth in the tourism sector of Haiti.

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