PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Thursday February 26, 2015, CMC – Former United States president Bill Clinton welcomed the new US$45 million Marriott hotel here, saying it provides an opportunity for the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country “to show the real Haiti to the rest of the world”.
The 1275-room hotel is owned by the Digicel group, Haiti’s largest mobile provider, and its founder and chief executive officer Denis O’Brien defended the company’s entry into the tourism sector here.
“I know lots of people were asking, what on earth is a telecom company doing getting into the hotel business?. The idea of investing in this new Marriott Hotel came from Haiti’s great friend, President Clinton… His guiding words to Arne (Sorenson, president and chief executive officer of Marriott International) and myself on this project was, ‘Let’s do this together for Haiti.”
Clinton told the ceremony attended by President Michel Martelly, his Prime Minister Evans Paul as well as his former prime minister Laurent Lamothe and the actor Sean Penn, that O’Brien was a leading member of the Clinton Global Initiative Haiti Action Network.
“If all the members in the network keep their promises on behalf of Haiti, it will mean that the group would have invested more than US$500 million after more than three years,” Clinton said.
Haiti’s hotel stock suffered tremendously in 2012 when an earthquake destroyed most of the infrastructure including hotels and reducing the room count by 1,000.
Tourism Minister Stéphanie Villedrouin Balmir said since the earthquake 2,500 new hotel rooms have been built countrywide, bringing the total to 4,322.
Martelly said the hotel is a testament to his government’s vision of repositioning Haiti on the world’s tourism map and welcomed Marriott’s emphasis on the use of local products, from soap to coffee, to the locally inspired artwork decorating the lobby.
He said the hotel, which will create at least 200 new jobs, is the fourth international brand to invest in the hotel sector here.