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!