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Is Adventure Tourism the Answer for Haiti?

©istockphoto/1001nights

©istockphoto/1001nights

Haiti isn’t the first place that springs to mind when travelers consider a Caribbean escape. In fact, the country that was wracked by a massive earthquake in 2010 and has consistently contended with high levels of poverty for decades, generally isn’t considered at all. But one adventure travel company hopes to change that however by launching new tours to Haiti next year. The hope is that tourism could play a significant role in rebuilding the once proud nation, and show the world that it has far more to offer than they know.

In the adventure travel industry, G Adventures is recognized as an innovative company that offers hundreds of unique tours to nearly every corner of the globe. The Toronto-based firm is capable of taking clients to all seven continent, and to some of the most remote regions on the planet, while still maintaining sustainable and ethical travel practices along the way. Working with local tour guides, and focusing on small groups, the company has earned itself a reputation as one of the best organizations in the entire industry, particularly when working in developing nations.

Last year, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) reached out to the team at G Adventures and asked them to assess the possibility of creating a tourism infrastructure in Haiti. The IDB sees tourism as a potential tool for economic development, and it wanted to begin exploring that potential further. An influx of foreign visitors would bring a much a needed boost to the Haitian economy, and it could go a long way towards changing the perception of the country on an international level as well.

Intrigued by the possibilities, Jeff Russell, VP of innovation at G Adventures, went to Haiti to explore its potential as an adventure travel destination. He discovered a country that is rich in history and culture, with some surpassingly great natural resources at its disposal as well. He already knew that Haiti’s pristine beaches were popular with the cruise ship crowd, but he also found other outdoor settings that could potentially be used to lure travelers as well.

Over time, Russell was able to connect with local guides and tourism officials, and began to form a plan for a possible tour to Haiti. That tour would not only tap into the country’s fascinating history and culture, but also take visitors through its burgeoning art scene as well. But it would also take them to crystal-clear, turquoise waters of the Bassin-Blue pools where swimming and cliff diving are popular, and to the massive Marie-Jeanne cave system, for a subterranean adventure as well. And of course, no visit to Haiti would be complete without a visit to the capital city of Port-au-Prince, or the famous Citadelle Laferrière, not to mention the aforementioned beaches.

After months of planning, G Adventures recently announced that it will begin offering its Highlights of Haiti tour starting in February of 2015. The 10-day trip will be offered just five times next year, with plans for more departures in 2016. The tour will be a part of the continued assessment of Haiti as a travel destination, and the ongoing exploration of tourism as a way to create jobs and stimulate the economy there. The itinerary incorporates many of the sites that Russell discovered in his travels, giving visitors a true taste of what Haiti has to offer.

As a nation, Haiti has many hurdles to overcome on its continued path to development. Unemployment remains very high, much of the population lives in poverty, and the country is still recovering from that devastating earthquake that occurred more than four years ago. But tourism can be a true force for good, delivering all kinds of benefits to a nation in need. That is the message that the IDB and G Adventures are conveying as they take the first small steps towards opening Haiti to travelers, and reintroducing the country to the rest of the world.

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