Tour ops: Countries disparaged by Trump are destinations on the rise

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A view of the San Vicente volcano in El Salvador from a lookout at El Boqueron National Park.
A view of the San Vicente volcano in El Salvador from a lookout at El Boqueron National Park. Photo Credit: Bilal Kocabas/Shutterstock

While President Donald Trump's reported comment behind closed doors about why the U.S. wants immigrants from "sh*thole countries" such as Haiti, El Salvador and nations in Africa has caused a huge media storm, tour operators report that there has been increased interest in these destinations and say there's great growth potential.

Intrepid Travel said it recently began offering an El Salvador trip, due in part to North American demand.

"And, we have seen a significant rise in U.S. travel to East Africa, with bookings up 71% overall in the last year, and an impressive 262% increase specifically in travel to Ethiopia," said Leigh Barnes, Intrepid Travel's director of North America.

Barnes added that in North Africa, bookings are up 87% in Morocco, and Egypt bookings have more than doubled in the last year.

On Tuesday, G Adventures founder Bruce Poon Tip issued a long statement in response to President Trump's remarks entitled "The Haiti I Know and Admire, How Tourism Can Challenge and Change Misperceptions."

"I have been disheartened by recent rhetoric that has degraded and dehumanized people from countries who are not seen as equal to people coming from Norway. I came to the conclusion that being born in the Caribbean not far from Haiti, I too could be considered as coming from a 'sh*thole' nation," wrote Poon Tip, who was born in Trinidad.

He detailed how the company came to offer small-group adventure tours in Haiti in 2015 following a personal visit to the island in 2010 after the devastating earthquake there. In 2013, G Adventures' nonprofit organization, Planeterra, was contracted by the Inter-American Development Bank to consult on accessing Haiti's tourism potential, Poon Tip explained.

"What my team found when they got to Haiti was a vibrant country bursting with art and culture, friendly and welcoming locals and a wealth of natural wonders like cave systems, waterfalls and swimming holes," he wrote.

"Tourism is one of the main ways we can redistribute wealth to countries that need it, and one of the main ways we help change the perception of a place. Yes, Haiti is still rebuilding, but it's a beautiful country with a lot to offer, and I'm proud our travelers are helping make a difference to the lives of the people who live there and have had to endure so much," he said.

In support of Haiti tourism, G Adventures said it has reduced the price of its February tours by 20%.

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