Haiti’s newest hotel is a destination in its own right.
The Marriott Port-au-Prince Hotel— the result of a philanthropic collaboration between Marriott International, Digicel Group and The Clinton Foundation — opened its doors in March. The 175-room Marriott is the first of its brand in the country and aims to bring sustainability to the people of Haiti by employing primarily Haitians and enlisting local businesses for goods and services whenever possible.
Located just 7 miles from the Toussaint L’Ouverture International Airport, the Marriott Port-au-Prince offers guests easy access to the city’s commercial district as well as a wide variety of outdoor activities like hiking and swimming. It boasts the popular La Sirene Bar and Restaurant, with a variety of traditional Haitian items in addition to popular international dishes. It also features five elegant meeting rooms for corporate and social events of any size.
“The opening of the Marriott Port-au-Prince is an important milestone as the people of Haiti work to revitalize and diversify their economy,” said President Bill Clinton at the opening ceremony in March. “I am grateful to Marriott and Digicel for their commitment to this project, and hope that its success will inspire further investment.”
The Clinton Foundation facilitated the signing of a development and operating agreement between Marriott Hotel and the Digicel Group to build the hotel in the Turgeau area of Port-au-Prince, next to Digicel’s offices. The hotel, which is creating 200 new, stable, and competitively paid jobs in Port-au-Prince, is also generating opportunities for Haitian small businesses and entrepreneurs who will be able to supply goods and services to the hotel.
The Haiti Marriott is led by a veteran Marriott general manager who was previously at the Marriott Champs Elysees in Paris. It includes among its staff a number of people of Haitian descent, some of whom returned to Haiti for the first time to work there. They represent two-thirds of executive positions at the Marriott Port-au-Prince, including Sharon Sylhomme, a Financial Officer, Edwidge Solages, who works in of Human Resources, and Ellen Wouters, Director of Operations.
Kier Construction Company workers, sub-contractors and skilled Haitian construction workers who built the hotel were among those who were on hand as President Martelly and President Clinton celebrated the ribbon cutting earlier this season. The hotel created more than 1,100 jobs throughout the construction stage.
The Digicel Group invested $45 million to build the property. Digicel Chairman Denis O’Brien is also the man behind the Digicel Foundation, which to date has constructed 150 schools in Haiti, and rebuilt the iconic Iron Market in Port-au-Prince. He is also the Chairman of the Clinton Global Initiative’s Haiti Action Network and has been instrumental in driving the activity of 80 support organizations in Haiti to deliver on their commitments.
“All along, we’ve said that we were committed to Haiti’s recovery and to delivering on its potential as a great place to invest, and as such, we are thrilled to be opening the doors of the Marriott Port-au-Prince here today,” said Mr. O’Brien. “We hope that the opening of the hotel will signal that Haiti is truly open for business and is ready to welcome investors and travelers alike.”
“We believe we can make a difference in Haiti by promoting tourism, and developing local talent that can help lift this country, over time, back to being one of the top travel destinations in the Caribbean,” said Arne Sorenson, Marriott International President and CEO.
Working with Haiti’s Ministry of Tourism, Marriott selected 8 Haitian youth to train in hospitality operations at the new JW Marriott Hotel Santo Domingo. The youth recently returned to Haiti after their 12-week internship in Santo Domingo and have been hired as entry-level supervisors at the Marriott Port-au-Prince Hotel. Marriott is also collaborating with Haiti’s Ministry of Tourism and World Central Kitchen to build the skills and training of Haiti’s hospitality workforce through newly designed hospitality curriculum for local culinary students.
Marriott has provided funding to help support the innovative new program, which is currently being delivered to its first culinary class of nearly 40 students in a school located near the Marriott Hotel Port-au-Prince. The program will be expanded when a new Ecole Hotelier, currently under construction, is completed in 2015.
In addition to the 200 new hotel jobs and hospitality training, the hotel is sourcing goods, food and amenities from local small businesses, social enterprises, farms and Haitian artisans. The unique craftsmanship of more than a dozen Haitian-based artisans, including the hotel’s art curator, Philippe Dodard, is showcased throughout the hotel’s guest rooms, corridors, great room, conference areas, restaurant and courtyard. From signature metalworks, paper mache masks and voodoo flags, to contemporary photography and stone and wood sculptures using natural and recycled materials, the deep, vibrant art culture of Haiti is on display. The hotel will also feature weekly art markets where guests can purchase art from local artists on the hotel grounds.
Marriott Port-au-Prince is sourcing 100 percent of its coffee from Haitian company, Rebo Coffee, which employs several hundred women who carefully select the beans for quality. Rebo is a socially responsible business that is investing in agricultural and financial training for small and independent farmers.
Marriott Port-au-Prince is pleased to be the first hotel in Haiti to source produce from Afe Neg Combite, a Kenscoff-based co-op made up of 5,500 farmers employing a total of 8,000 people. Marriott’s procurement team has been working with the farmers for more than a year to help them produce, package and transport fruits and vegetables in ways that meet the quality, yield and lower waste standards of the hospitality industry.
The Marriott Hotel Port-au-Prince was sustainably designed and constructed, providing stand-alone utility services while applying energy efficient building technologies.
“Merci, merci,” said Haiti Minister of Tourism Stephanie Villedrouin. “Marriott International and Digicel Group’s dedication to completing this project is to be commended. The opening of this hotel is a huge vote of confidence in the future economic viability of Haiti.”
Dining options at the hotel include La Sirene Restaurant, a casual restaurant and La Sirene Bar, a lobby bar and lounge and 24-hour room service. The hotel will include about 6,501 square feet) of flexible meeting space, a 150-square-meter (1,614-square-foot) fitness center, swimming pool, and sundries shop/marketplace.