The Tourism Impact of the Haiti Earthquake

The Cathedral of Port-au-Prince remains standing, yet badly damaged following a major quake January 14, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo by Frederic Dupoux/Getty Images

In the years following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010, the Haitian community, as well as the global community, have worked together to restore the damaged parts of the island, from homes and businesses, to the lives of those who call the island home.  

The January 2010 Port-au-Prince earthquake is not only a humanitarian catastrophe, it also is a devastating blow to recent efforts to put Haiti back on the tourism map. Part of the bitter irony of this unforeseen natural disaster is that it comes just as Haiti was starting to show signs of recovering from its myriad political, criminal and natural crises and achieving enough stability that visitors could safely be welcomed again. Just recently, Choice Hotels had announced plans to bring the first Comfort Inn to Haiti, which also would have been the island's first property from an international hotel chain.

Now, Haiti will have to cope with the loss of thousands of lives and the destruction of public infrastructure (roads, buildings, utilities) that was far from ideal even before the earthquake. A wall at the famous Hotel Oloffson has collapsed (though the property is reportedly otherwise intact), as has the Haitian National Palace and the Port au Prince cathedral, according to witnesses. The Hotel Montana has been destroyed, with many people trapped inside; the same is true of the Karibe Hotel and doubtless many others.

The one piece of good news so far is that the airport in Port au Prince is operational and capable of receiving relief flights, despite the loss of its control tower. Also, while travel to the Port au Prince area will obviously be affected for many years by this tragedy, it's worth noting that other areas of the country did not experience the same level of destruction, leaving open the possibility of a revived tourism industry at some point in the future.

Both the Hotel Olaffson and the Hotel Villa Creole in Port au Prince are reportedly being used as shelters for quake victims.

American Airlines and Delta Air Lines have cancelled its flights to Haiti. JetBlue is allowing passengers traveling to Puerto Plata, Santo Domingo, or Santiago in the Dominican Republic whose travels are affected by the quake to rebook at no charge. Check with your airline for more details. Some Dominican airports are being used as staging grounds for relief flights to Haiti; the Dominican Republic occupies the eastern half of Hispaniola, while Haiti occupies the western half of the island.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines said that no visible damage has been reported at the cruise port of Labadee, Haiti. Cruise lines are reportedly waiting for permission from the Haitian government before resuming stopovers in Labadee.