By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said on Monday Carnival Cruise Lines have signed an agreement with the Haitian government to develop a $70 million project to build a tourism port on the island of Latortue (Turtle Island) in the northern part of the Caribbean country, which is banking on tourism to fight extreme poverty.
Lamothe explained that the deal with the Carnival Corporation will help many of the nearly 36,000 people -- living on the 180 square kilometer island, which has some 80 km2 of coasts, in the northwest region – to find job opportunities and hope for a better future.
The Haitian government, under the leadership of President Michel Martelly and Lamothe, is also developing a special plan to help the most vulnerable and establish basic services the island had not seen in more than two centuries.
“The project that Carnival Cruise Lines company is committed to developing in La Tortue is one that can help us fight poverty on the island,” Lamothe told the Haitian-Caribbean News Network (HCNN).
“And I believe that, as far as the future tourists are concerned, it is worth it to know that the money that you are spending while having fun is helping someone to get out of poverty,” said Lamothe. “This should be very rewarding, and that is what I call a tourism of solidarity,” he said.
The La Tortue project – which will be the second largest cruise tourism investment in Haiti, after Labadie, in the north – will help employ directly or indirectly nearly 1,000 people, according certain estimates.
The number of tourists who visited Haiti in 2013 increased by 20%, just below half a million, compared to figures available in 2012, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), even though these figures remain excessively low in comparison with numbers in the Dominican Republic (over 4 million), Cuba (nearly 3 million), Jamaica (over 2 million).
“However, what is interesting about tourism trends here is that Haiti has registered the biggest growth rate in tourist arrivals in the Caribbean,” said Lamothe. “And this shows the growing interest there is for our destination and we’ll see more of that in the coming months and years,” he predicted.
Haiti is one of the safest places in the Caribbean and in the region, according to the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), and the number of kidnapping cases decreased by 88% in the first seven months of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013, according to figures released by police authorities.
The Haitian government, in a partnership with several national and international groups, launched last year an ambitious project to turn another island, Ile-a-Vache (Cow Island), in the southern part of Haiti, into a direct international tourist destination with an international airport and other tourist infrastructure.
Tourism minister, Stephanie B. Villedrouin, has been developing a number of tourism products, sites and packages to attract more visitors and promote abroad an improved image of Haiti.