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The IDB gives Haiti a $36 million grant for sustainable tourism on its southern coast

The grant will tap Haitian historic, cultural and natural resources to create jobs

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has approved a $36 million grant to foster tourism around Haitian historic, cultural and natural resources along the country’s southern coastline that will create tourism-related jobs for the region’s low-income residents.

Given its inviting beaches, rich tropical landscape, unique cultural history as the world’s first black republic, and its proximity to the United States, Haiti has much to offer tourists, but they’re not likely to flock there in great numbers until they perceive that the environment is clean, excursion leaders are well-trained and equipped with safe equipment and vessels, and security is not a concern.

To address these concerns and provide income-generating opportunities for residents of Haiti’s southern coast, the grant will help the government implement a well-planned tourism program featuring a combination of infrastructure development, job training and government capacity building.

Jobs are scarce in Haiti: more than 80 percent of rural inhabitants scrape by as subsistence farmers and just 60 percent work in the formal job sector, making it the most underemployed country in the hemisphere. Authorities face multiple challenges in the struggle to combat the effects of climate change and other natural disasters, environmental degradation from deforestation, overfishing, and improper disposal of solid waste.

Just 10 percent of the southern coast’s historic sites and protected areas have the facilities needed to make them user-friendly tourist destinations. In the picturesque beach town of Port Salut, for example, there are few hotels that would be deemed attractive and comfortable to most foreign tourists, and its beaches are heavily eroded, and often polluted by litter and less than adequate sanitation systems. Other quaint coastal towns such as Aquin offer popular international festivals and spectacular colonial forts but lack sufficient facilities for receiving visitors and require historic preservation efforts.

Nearly 71 percent of the grant will focus on improving the tourism product through environmental cleanup, rehabilitation of historic sites and construction of artisan markets and other cultural spaces. Another 12 percent will be used to build up the organizational capacity of tourism authorities, as well as for training hospitality, excursion, and entertainment workers.

The tourism program has the potential to generate much-needed income for low-income residents of Haiti’s southern region who could be employed as tour guides and hotel workers, start their own small businesses, or fish, produce, and distribute food for local markets that feed workers and tourists alike.

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