Port au Prince.- Canadian tourists traveled recently to Haiti with the mass-market operator Transat on the first package tour to come to this country for over 25 years. The landing at Port-au-Prince airport was greeted -before even reaching passport control- by the sound of a band playing traditional twoubadou music.
Passengers climbing out of a flight from Canada were greeted in person by Minister of Tourism Stephanie Villedrouin and the Haitian press.
The hope was and is that mass-market tourism could return to the Caribbean isle. But for Haiti to overcome its damaging history and the devastation of the 2010 earthquake and become a tourist destination will require a lot to go right.
In the late 1940s and 50s, tourists began to flock to Port-au-Prince. The city’s waterfront area was redeveloped as part of the city’s bicentenary and American cruise ship passengers could walk from the docks to the famous Moorish-styled Iron Market to buy Haitian art and mahogany.
Holidaymakers returned in the 1970s, when his son Jean-Claude took the reigns of power. Package tourists flocked to the country’s new beach resorts; Bill and Hillary Clinton honeymooned here.
For some people, a Haitian holiday was a byword for licentiousness -sex tourism, shotgun weddings, and quickie divorces- but the country’s proximity to the USA made the place a hot attraction until the regime fell in 1986.