Haiti: From Dictators and Disasters to Destination

 Haiti: From Dictators and Disasters to Destination

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Haiti.

Is Haiti the new St. Bart’s? Not yet, but a strong campaign to increase tourism may prompt some travelers to take a second look at the controversial Caribbean nation.

Known as the “pearl of the Antilles” in its heyday, Haiti’s beautiful beaches and unique African-French culture attracted the jet set. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton vacationed there 1960s, Bill and Hillary Clinton made it their honeymoon destination in 1975, and Club Med maintained a port of call there until the 1990s. However, years of often violent political instability, the dubious distinction of being the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere, and a cataclysmic earthquake in 2010 all but destroyed Haiti’s appeal as a vacation spot.

Until now, or so Haiti hopes. Since the earthquake, the government and organizations like The Clinton Foundation have undertaken major efforts to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and attract marquee names like Marriott Hotels and JetBlue to invest in the possibility of a new Haiti. In January, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe talked tourism at the World Economic Forum in Davos, pressing the flesh of influential world leaders and CEOs. This month, Haiti’s Ministry of Tourism launched a new ad campaign and heavily promoted a partnership with a Canadian tour operator to offer vacation packages from the US and Canada. The media has taken note, with features running in national publications like Travel + Leisure and the BBC as well as dozens of articles in  regional publications.

THE PR VERDICT:  “B” (Good Show) for Haiti. Despite an unsavory recent history, this well-orchestrated push to re-introduce an old country to a new traveler is getting attention.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Good PR doesn’t happen overnight. The best campaigns have PR integrated into the business plan from the start. When publicists are asked to “write up a PR plan” for a product or initiative at the last minute, creativity suffers and opportunities are lost. Haiti’s PR push, the seeds of which were sown many months ago, is a great example of a thoughtful, strategic approach coming to fruition. Bon voyage!

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Christine Walton Brennan About Christine Walton Brennan

Christine Walton Brennan is the former Head of Corporate Communications for Marsh & McLennan Companies. She also managed media relations at banking giants UBS and Merrill Lynch, and was a journalist with Bloomberg News. In 2011, Christine embraced her midlife "realization" and is now a Registered Nurse in New York's Hudson Valley.

What is Your PR Verdict?

  1. Thank you for this thoughtful and positive piece on Haiti. Those of us who have visited the country and followed its tragic history wish for Haiti to finally move out of the deep pit it has fallen into due to a combination of man-made and natural disasters. However, when you look at the country’s history for the last 200 years it is much less encouraging. Maybe I have read too many novels about Haiti (three in all) by Madison Smartt Bell, but the hatred for foreigners, in spite of decades of independence, combined with an overdependence on outside help is not a healthy place to begin the country’s move out of the deep rut it continues to be in. The main hope is for young people from Haiti and the expatriate community who are well educated and willing to sacrifice time and resources for the common good to help the country move into a new and positive phase of development.

  2. Haiti’s problems are for Haitians to solve, but it does not seem that the current generation is capable of doing this. Our hopes are with the current youngest generation of Haitians, and ngo’s and others working to overhaul education in Haiti, for example, the US-based NGO “Haiti Lumiere de Demain” (see http://www.haitilumiere.org).
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