Haiti Sustainable Travel Guide
Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world but welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. About the same size as Belgium, Haiti has a population of 10.85 million people as of 2016. When visiting you will be immersed in the arts. Haiti has a deep-rooted history of dance, folk art and music, and is known for their mouth watering Caribbean-French fusion cuisine. It shares a land border with the Dominican Republic and serves as day layover for cruise ships. According to Royal Caribbean, they alone brought 600,000 guests to the beaches of Haiti in 2014. As you can imagine, this can cause a significant impact on the local economy and environment. Some impacts negative and some positive.
Haiti already has an eco-tourism industry of sorts, but considering that these private companies and government run programs have displaced many tribal members from their land and fishermen from their coastal settlements, it is far from ethical. Privatized beaches and major hotel developments and other beautification projects occurring, local traditions and livelihoods are being adversely affected. For example, Labadee is a pristine beach leased out by Cruise line operator, Royal Caribbean. You will barely see any locals here, further exemplifying its negative cultural impact.
Choosing to travel to this region by air as oppose to jumping on a cruise ship, will allow you to put more of your travel dollars spent into local economies such as hotels, restaurants and street vendors. To read more about how the traditional tourism industry has affected Haiti go to: http://tourismconcern.org.uk/the-battle-for-paradise-land-grabs-forced-expulsions-protests-on-ile-a-vache-haiti/
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Another cultural issue to be aware of in this region is Voodoo animal sacrifices. Bulls, chickens or goats are common sacrificial offerings during certain festivals or ceremonies. Planning ahead well help you avoid encounters with this traditional activity if this is what you want to steer clear of.
As in other Caribbean countries, it is customary to ask prior to taking photographs. Responsible photography should be employed. Some locals have monetized this and may ask for a tip to take a pic with or of them so be prepared for that.
Finally, due to the devastating earthquake that rocked Haiti in 2010, there has been an influx of volunteers wanting to travel here in order to help locals affected by this tragedy. And although many travel operators offer volunteering opportunities in Haiti, care should be taken when considering this type of holiday. Despite the noble intentions, it’s possible to do more harm than good. In summary, it’s all about asking any potential tour operators organizing a volunteering holiday in Haiti several questions to ensure that both you and the company are not exploiting local people and that you’re work is in fact creating a positive difference for the lives of others. Check out our Voluntourism page for more advice.