When most people think of a vacation in the Caribbean, they’re picturing the shell-encrusted sands and turquoise waters that surround islands such as Grand Cayman, the Bahamas or St. Barts.
It’s unlikely that anyone currently planning a relaxing or luxury jaunt through the Caribbean’s world-famous archipelagos has the beleaguered nation of Haiti in mind. To be sure, the island of Hispaniola, which Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic, also has the same beautiful beaches that grace Puerto Rico, Jamaica and the Virgin Islands. I know because I’ve been there.
Unlike those other islands, however, Haiti carries the burden of being known as the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. Furthermore, the specter of generations of corrupt and ineffectual leadership hangs heavy over Haiti, as do the devastating effects of a string of hurricanes that battered it throughout the mid-to-late ‘00s – capped off by the massive 2010 earthquake that left much of Port-Au-Prince in ruins.
Despite these hardships, Haiti has embarked on a mission to revamp its image and regain its status as a popular travel destination.
Haitian tourism has been hot in the past. Liz (Taylor) and Dick (Burton) vacationed there in the ‘60s and the Clintons honeymooned there in the ‘70s. But a combination of deficient government, natural disasters and one of the world’s worst cases of deforestation – which intensifies the damaging effects of the floods that accompany storms – has led to a drastic drop-off in tourism traffic rates.
Now, three years after the quake, can Haiti, the only country in the world to have been born of a successful slave uprising, get its groove as a destination back?
Perhaps a different kind of international attention – based on curiosity and appreciation – can help the island country find a lucrative niche to help fuel its growth into the new century.
Haiti has a wonderfully rich historical and cultural tradition and has managed to maintain some of its natural charms. Let’s hope that a combination of local efforts and foreign assistance mean that names such as Jacmel and Côte-des-Arcadins will begin to figure prominently in Caribbean vacation plans for tourists the world over.
Have you ever been to Haiti? If you have any interesting stories about it, we welcome you to share them with us in the section below.