Johanna Jainchill
Johanna Jainchill

InsightLast week's opening of the Best Western Premier Petion-Ville in Haiti is the latest hotel helping to breathe new life into the nation’s tourism sector.

Dallas-based Aimbridge Hospitality, which opened the propety along with Haiti-based Carabimmo SA and Best Western International, described the hotel as "the first full-service, corporate, U.S. brand hotel to open in Haiti."

It is also the first Best Western Premier to open in the Caribbean.

"The opening of this hotel is a historic moment for Port au Prince, and marks the ongoing revitalization and rebirth of our country," stated Kenny Narwani, Carabimmo SA principal. "This is a personal triumph for our company, as well for our employees and residents of Port au Prince. We look forward to welcoming our first and future guests to their new home away from home in Haiti."

Johanna JainchillHotel development is helping to fuel growth in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country, which has traditionally seen very little benefit from the travel industry that supports the economies of most of the Caribbean, including Haiti's island neighbor, the Dominican Republic.

Still recovering from the devastating earthquake that destroyed much of the country in 2010, Haiti is nevertheless experiencing a hotel building boom.

According to Smith Travel Research, there are currently five hotels, including the Best Western, with 666 rooms slated to open in Haiti over the next few years.

The development includes Marriott International's plans to open a 173-room hotel in the capital city of Port au Prince in 2014 and Choice Hotels International converting the former Cap Lamandou Hotel to a Comfort Inn in Jacmel. In December, the Royal Oasis Hotel, an Occidental Hotel & Resorts property, opened in Petionville.

"World attention is now on Haiti, and they are going through revitalization," said Rich Cortese, Aimbridge senior vice president of Caribbean operations and development. "Businesses are being revived, and construction projects are in the works throughout the island. There is more international and domestic travel now than in many years."

Best Western Premier Petion-Ville lobby barThe $15 million, seven-story Best Western Premier, also in Petionville, an upscale suburb of the capital, has 106 guest rooms with three Executive and Imperial suites. Wi-Fi, 42-inch flat-screen TVs, meetings facilities, a pool, a full-service spa and gym and concierge service are some of the amenities the property boasts. The hotel offers a French-inspired restaurant, Le Michel; a whiskey bar; and room service.

Cortese said that the majority of the hotel's 95 employees were locals, in addition to "seasoned management staff."

"Travelers new to Haiti will feel assured of the product and service standards, the security of a name U.S. chain hotel, along with the high-tech amenities and services the hotel offers," he said.

Aimbridge said the property, while designed for business travelers, would also cater to individual travelers and noted that the hotel is near the airport, boutiques and restaurants, adding that "undeveloped, virgin beaches are as close as one hour" away.

Cortese said he believes that more hotel development in Haiti is on the way.

"The sophisticated traveler is interested in Haiti and all this vibrant culture, art, music and history," he said. "We are proud to be the first U.S. chain hotel to open in Port-au-Prince, and others will follow... . More chain hotel development is on the way."

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