Haiti Tourism: Transforming institutions and people

After the catastrophic earthquake in 2010, the Government of Haiti began to focus on enhancing the country’s tourism product as a way to rebuild the devastated economy. The Tourism Master Plan they formulated, made provisions for such things as incentives to current and prospective hotel owners and increased promotion of the country’s rich offerings. Recognising these efforts to grow the industry, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) agreed to provide support through a specially designed training programme for persons working in the hotel sector.

The Bank’s Caribbean Technological Consultancy Services (CTCS) Network designed the programme to deliver formal and experiential learning. Participants were not only to be trained in the specific areas that they worked in but also, they were to experience the industry from the perspective of a tourist. In addition, to contribute to the institutional strengthening of the more than 60-year-old Haiti Tourism Association (ATH), training was provided for the Executive Director, Valerie Louis.

The attachment programme was conducted in two phases in 2012 and 2013, with a total of 22 participants from nine hotels. It was part of the CTCS’s strategy for contributing to the development of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Haiti. A feature of this strategy is collaboration with major enterprise development agencies, primarily those operating in key sectors that the Government has identified for economic development.  Targeted MSMEs will be sensitised and exposed to better business practices and processes with a view to assisting them in increasing efficiency and productivity.

“The training was intended to equip participants who were required, at the end of the programme, to share the information they gained with their managers and colleagues, and prepare an action plan for implementing measures that could improve the hotels where they work,” said Michel Thomas, Operations Officer, CDB.

The Executive Director of ATH was attached to the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association to observe its operations. Through this experience, she learned about ways in which the ATH could provide new and improved services to its members. She also gained insights on how to implement projects and activities that could contribute to the development of the tourism sector in Haiti. 

“I wanted to be in another tourism association to see how they deal with the members, how I can increase benefits for my members because it’s all about what you can offer more for the members,” Louis said.

Within a year of Louis’ return to Haiti, the ATH had become a more vibrant organization, with record attendance at meetings. Chairman of the Association, Richard Buteau, attributes the vibrancy of the ATH to the “transformation” in Louis following her trip to Barbados.

“We have increased our membership since she came back from her training. Just only the fact that she was able to, for three weeks, to see how the association in Barbados works—how they were able to develop that relationship with their members, how they were able to develop the activities around the association—has transformed the way we function,” Buteau notes.

In addition to improvements in the ATH’s operations, Buteau, who is the General Manager of the Karibe Hotel, also saw positive changes in the four persons from his hotel who benefited from the training programme.

“I’ve never seen any programme with a better impact such as the one that you presented to us. And when I saw the results of the people…When they came back you can see, you can feel the transformation within that person. That’s part of the whole package and that’s what I think the programme of CDB has brought to our employees and that is the transformation that I’ve seen in them,” Buteau said.

All managers reported that, as a result of the training, participants had grown in confidence, demonstrated a new sense of pride in their work, and had become workplace influencers who are contributing to improved employee engagement and loyalty.

The attachment programme was implemented through support of USD170,000 from CDB’s Special Development Fund (Unified).

CTCS is a network managed within CDB’s Technical Cooperation Division and operated in cooperation with regional and national institutions, laboratories, industrial enterprises, and consultants. It comprises a network of institutions and experts with the primary aim of transferring knowledge, skills and technology to improve managerial and operational efficiency and competitiveness of MSMEs in 19 Borrowing Member Countries through the provision of technical assistance.