The second in a three-part Latin Business Traveler series
Haiti has a number of quality hotels and resorts, but to secure lodging at one of them generally requires planning well in advance. The few existing international-class hotel rooms there are in constant demand by the scores of United Nations officials who are tasked with getting the country back on its feet, non-governmental agency representatives and even missionaries. The U.S. Department of State pointedly advises those considering travel to Haiti that "space in hotels is extremely limited."
In the heart of Port-au-Prince
In the heart of the capital city of Port-au-Prince, the venerable Hotel Oloffson was immortalized by British novelist Graham Greene in his 1966 book The Comedians. A year later, the fictitious Hotel
Trianon also served as the primary locale for the movie of the same name, starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. The Oloffson began life as a private mansion, and its rooms, suites and cottages still reflect that feeling. It offers Wi-Fi, a restaurant, a swimming pool and tropical garden - as well as 24-hour security.
Another downtown Port-au-Prince option is Le Plaza Hotel, with its 95 rooms and suites - all with either Wi-Fi or broadband Internet access. The hotel has five meeting spaces, which can accommodate up to 280. Le Plaza also has 24-hour reception, secured parking, two restaurants, a swimming pool and a tropical garden.
Many business travelers choose to stay outside Port-au-Prince proper, in the nearby suburb of Pétion-Ville, home to embassies, government agencies and corporate offices. Options there include the Best Western Premier Pétion-Ville and the Occidental Royal Oasis.
The 128-room Royal Oasis, which opened late last year, aims to be a five-star experience from Occidental Hotels & Resorts. Constructed to withstand earthquakes and hurricanes, it has complimentary in-room Wi-Fi and meeting space for up to 250, along with a bank and ATM, bar and four different restaurants.
The 106-room Best Western Premier also aims for luxury, although of the four-star variety. All rooms have available Wi-Fi, and the hotel's four meeting rooms can accommodate up to 200 people. A restaurant, bar, coffee shop, business center, swimming pool and full-service spa round out the amenities, along with outdoor and garage parking options.
What's Missing? A variety of hotels associated with the industry's marquee brands. That will change in 2015, when the $45 million, 175-room Marriott Hotel Port-au-Prince is scheduled to open in the city's Turgeau area. The Digicel Group, a firm based in Jamaica but active throughout the Caribbean, is designing and building the hotel. Some 200 new hospitality jobs will be created, the builder says, and Marriott will provide needed workforce training. The Marriott experiment, if successful, could entice other developers and franchisers to consider projects in Haiti.
Advance Planning is Essential
Given the scarcity of hotel rooms in and around Port-au-Prince, those with business to do should book well in advance of their travel plans. Consider only the small handful of properties represented by the major Internet hotel booking sites, or put a good travel agent on the job, because a hotel with a well-informed concierge and the ability to provide such extra services as translation, driving and personal security will be a top priority for many headed to Haiti.
Some business travelers may find themselves seeking lodging at nearby coastal resorts. Many of these properties offer the standard amenities common throughout the world in such facilities - swimming pools and stretches of adjoining beach. Some, however, might find the incongruity of these resorts, often located alongside areas of intense poverty, to be inappropriate for their needs.
Part three of this series will cover Haitian cuisine, music, art and economic development perspectives.