How developed is the Dominican Republic


Klaus Lengefeld

To person

Born in 1955; Senior advisor for tourism and sustainable development at the German Society for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) GmbH, Dag-Hammarskjöld-Weg 1-5, 65760 Eschborn. [email protected]

Haiti's tourist development potential lies in the still lively mixture of African, local and European cultures. How can it learn from the Dominican Republic, the Caribbean's premier travel destination?


Haiti is less blessed with outstanding natural attractions like the Amazon rainforest, the Iguaçu waterfalls in Argentina / Brazil, wild animals like Africa or glacier mountains like the Andes or the Himalayas. There are also no cultural monuments of international importance such as the Mayan cultural sites or sights from colonial times from the class of Tikal and Antigua in Guatemala, Copán in Honduras or Chichén Itzá in Mexico. If there is something like a USP, a "USP" (unique selling proposition) for Haiti, it lies in the unique history of this first self-liberated former slave state and the mixture of African, local and European cultures, which is still alive today, which is the breeding ground for the famous voodoo cult, for example. The neighboring Dominican Republic, with which Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola, also has no unique selling point comparable to the world's tourist attractions. Only the fact that the Spaniards founded the first city in America, Santo Domingo, and therefore the oldest Spanish colonial buildings or their ruins can be seen there today, could be seen as a USP.

When it comes to "normal" tourist attractions, Haiti and the Dominican Republic have a lot in common: both countries can offer palm beaches, bays, coral reefs and the associated "Caribbean feeling". However, the Dominican Republic has far greater potential for offshore natural attractions such as Pico Duarte, which is over 3000 meters high, the highest peak in the Caribbean, and 265 square kilometers of Lago Enriquillo, the largest lake in the Caribbean - a salt lake 40 meters below the sea level. In addition, the massive deforestation and the resulting soil erosion in the Dominican Republic have not progressed as strongly as in Haiti, so that important parts of nature are still reasonably intact.

In contrast to the Dominican Republic, the other, the "negative unique selling point" of Haiti stood and still stands against the targeted use of Haiti's tourist potential: Haiti is by far the poorest country in the western hemisphere and has had almost all political in the past 50 years Experienced crises and violent situations that one can imagine: the worst dictators, priests who came as saviors only to sink into a swamp of corruption and violence, as well as the regular natural disasters and, most recently, earthquakes, the effects of which are due to the extensive deforestation and catastrophic ones Construction methods are multiplied - in short: Haiti seems to be more of a land of tourist nightmares than a dream destination in the Caribbean.

Against this background, the number of visitors is astonishing, which of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Haiti included, but a lot. Around 400,000 travelers are said to have visited the country in 2006, and this number has risen to 800,000 visitors by 2008, according to the WTTC. With further research you come across other and probably more realistic information: That's what they are called Caribbean Tourism Organization the last reliably recorded number for 2002 was 180,000 visitors, more than 70 percent of whom came from the USA and Canada. Since there are hundreds of thousands of emigrated Haitians living there who now have American or Canadian passports, the number of real or tourist visitors shrinks to a realistic level of less than 50,000 per year. If the employees of international development agencies and aid organizations represented in the statistics are subtracted from this number, one ends up with a few thousand "real" tourists who visit the country despite its overwhelming problem and the frightening external image it creates.

The only "bright spot" in tourism was and is the booming cruise tourism on the Labadie peninsula, leased from the US company Royal Caribbean in the north near Cape Haitien, in spite of all the crises and earthquakes. Since 1986 it has generated the majority of Haiti's tourism income. The number of cruise tourists arriving there far exceeds the number of other visitors to the country - the highest number to be found is more than 350,000 people who disembarked in Labadie in one year. This corresponds to 7,000 cruise visitors per week and thus an average of 2 stops per week by ships of the largest Royal Caribbean category such as the Oasis of the Seas, with a capacity of 5,400 passengers - currently the largest cruise ship in the world.

In view of the immediate neighborhood and the similarity of the attraction potential, the question arises whether and what a possible touristic development in Haiti can learn from the experience of the Dominican Republic, which within 30 years has become the most important travel destination in the Caribbean with almost four million visitors per year today has become.