Haiti can capitalize on its natural and cultural resources to get the country back on the world tourism map, thereby contributing to its overall recovery and development. This was the main message of UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, during his first official visit to Haiti (27-30 October 2012).

“The role of tourism as a vehicle for job creation, poverty reduction, economic growth and development is undeniable,” said the President of Haiti, Michel Joseph Martelly, on meeting Mr. Rifai and becoming the latest head of state to receive the UNWTO/World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Open Letter on Travel and Tourism.

The goal of the Haitian Government was to ensure tourism contributed to the “economic revival and stability” of Haiti, assured the President.

According to UNWTO figures, Haiti benefited from the growth of global tourism experienced last year. International tourist arrivals to Haiti resumed growth in 2011 after dropping by 34% in 2010 – a direct consequence of the earthquake.

“The strong rebound of international tourist arrivals following the earthquake demonstrates that tourism is perhaps our most viable option for the revitalization of Haiti’s economy,” said Mr. Rifai.

WTTC President & CEO, David Scowsill, said: “Haiti is still recovering from the devastating earthquake of 2010, but the Government, led by President Martelly, has embarked on a path to return the country to growth. In doing so, he has rightly recognised the role that Travel & Tourism can play in bringing jobs, economic prosperity and social opportunity to the island. This is a long-term process, but I am honoured that both WTTC and its Member companies are part of this process.”

As part of the support of the international community to Haiti, UNWTO will work with the Ministry of Tourism over the coming years to maximize tourism’s role in the country’s recovery. UNWTO experts will focus on a number of issues, including implementing a strategic tourism development plan, training programmes and a Tourism Satellite Account to better measure the impact of tourism.

The UNWTO Secretary-General also announced a joint campaign with Haiti and the Organization of American States to engage the local population in tourism. “The population needs to see the benefits of tourism and be part of the sector’s value chain,” said Mr. Rifai. “It is vital that they realize that tourism can be part of the solution, driving socio-economic development, while protecting and preserving Haiti’s unique cultural and natural heritage,” he concluded.