Now the government is pinning its hopes on a surge of private investment in hotels and resorts, plus a Venezuelan-financed $13.2 million airport and new infrastructure on the southern island of Ile-a-Vache, and an $8 million development of the historic coastal town of Jacmel.
The Tourism Ministry’s budget has more than doubled. Under the previous government it was $2 million plus a $1 million loan from Venezuela’s PetroCaribe oil fund. Now it’s $4.7 million, and Petrocaribe is paying $27 million to finance development on projects that include Ile-a-Vache and in Jacmel.
It says it has signed off on 15-year tax breaks and exemptions from import duties for 11 hotel and resort projects costing a total of $160 million, with nearly $100 million more in the pipeline or completed. It’s also training a force of 53 “tourism police officers” who will learn Spanish and English and be trained in first aid and customer service.
While many in Haiti welcome anything that can create jobs, some worry that the country isn’t ready for a tourist invasion. For one thing, the Tourism Ministry says it has only 3,200 hotel rooms. For another, medical services are woefully lacking, a point underscored in U.S. and Canadian travel advisories.
The government hopes to double the number of hotel rooms in two years. But the critics say Haiti first has to improve its infrastructure.
Sen. Francois Anick Joseph said the country needs paved roads, drinking water and reliable electricity. “There are a lot of things that need to be done before we can attract tourists,” he said in a telephone interview. via – MiamiHerald.com