Digicel, Marriott spread wings in Haiti
March 3, 2015

Digicel, Marriott spread wings in Haiti

The new Marriott Port-au-Prince Haiti Marriott Hotel checked in its first guests on February 24.

Among the 200 new Haitian hotel workers who welcomed them were young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and Haitian-Americans who want to share their hospitality skills to help boost Haiti’s tourism economy.{{more}} The stories of these new associates include Luccardo, who was recruited to work at the hotel’s front desk from the Nos Petits Frères et Soeurs orphanage, and Hermine, who was part of the hotel’s intern programme and will be an entry-level supervisor. In addition to members of a Haitian-American executive team, the Haiti Marriott is led by a veteran Marriott general manager who was previously at the Marriott Champs Elysees in Paris.

Joined by Haiti President Michel Martelly and former US President Bill Clinton at a celebration ceremony, Digicel Group Chair and Founder Denis O’Brien and Marriott International (NASDAQ: MAR) President – Caribbean & Latin America Region Craig S Smith thanked the Kier Construction Company workers, sub-contractors and skilled Haitian construction workers who built the hotel and the Marriott associates who will host its guests. The hotel officially opens March 1. A formal grand opening event is planned for June.

The journey to build the Marriott Port-au-Prince began four years ago, when Marriott International reached out to the Clinton Foundation to propose a new hotel to help Haiti rebuild its tourism industry after the devastating 2010 earthquake. The company found an eager partner in Digicel Group, which has invested US$45 million to build the 175-room hotel.

“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. “I am grateful to Marriott and Digicel for their commitment to this project, and hope that its success will inspire further investment and opportunity in Haiti.”

The Clinton Foundation worked closely with Marriott and Digicel Group to develop the hotel project. The Foundation visited proposed construction sites with the parties, facilitated introductions to the Haitian government and the Haitian Tourism Association, and encouraged all parties to use the hotel as an opportunity to create an economic anchor for the community. In addition to creating good, sustainable jobs for Haitians, the hotel incorporates Haitian art and artisan products into the hotel’s design and integrates green technologies such as solar to reduce the hotel’s environmental footprint. The Clinton Foundation also worked closely with Marriott and Digicel Group to identify and contract with Haitian entrepreneurs, small businesses and agricultural cooperatives that could provide goods and services to the hotel. This local procurement component has been an important aspect of the hotel’s development for all parties.

“Digicel Group and its Chairman, Mr O’Brien, are committed to attracting foreign direct investment to Haiti and to helping the country rebuild in the wake of the earthquake. Mr. O’Brien is Founder and Patron of 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,” a release from Digicel said.

“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,” 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.”

TDSA, the development company established by Digicel, managed the design/build contract and chose Marriott International’s flagship Marriott Hotels brand as its operating partner under a long-term management agreement. The hotel created more than 1,100 jobs throughout the construction stage.

Marriott’s interest in investing in Haiti was inspired in part by its associates, including thousands of Haitian-Americans who, after the earthquake, urged the company to help Haiti rebuild by planting the Marriott flag. Arne Sorenson, Marriott International President and CEO, said; “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.”

Through this project, Marriott is demonstrating how a hotel can be a model for social innovation and community investment. Working with Haiti’s Ministry of Tourism, Marriott selected eight 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 programme, 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.

TOMS is a key supplier to the Marriott Port-au-Prince, with the company providing custom-designed shoes made in Haiti for each of the hotel’s staff. Additionally, TOMS is producing shoes in Haiti as part of its commitment to help establish and support a responsible shoe industry in the country. As a locally staffed and operated facility, TOMS and its manufacturing partner, LXJ Golden Pacific, economically empower individuals while giving international businesses an opportunity to invest in Haiti’s future.

Marriott Port-au-Prince is sourcing 100 per cent 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 hotel is sourcing sustainable, fair-trade soaps and amenities from local producer Ayiti Natives. The products are made by Haitians using local Haitian herbs, nuts and fruits. Ayiti Natives was founded by Caroline Sada, a Haitian American social entrepreneur who left a job with a well-known US cosmetics company after the Haiti earthquake struck – she wanted to give back to the local community. All of her employees are women, and most come from the most destitute villages in Haiti.

The Marriott Hotel Port-au-Prince was sustainably designed and constructed, providing stand-alone utility services, while applying energy efficient building technologies. Its features include:

A densely insulated building envelope, with low solar gain glazing complemented with additional direct sun screens; a high-efficient energy plant producing six megawatts of electricity from 6 x 1100kw diesel generators. The plant is connected to a one megawatt solar farm located near the site; on-site water storage and treatment systems to provide for a five-day water supply; 60 per cent of the hotel’s hot water supply is provided through thermal solar panels installed on the roof; a 60,000 gallon waste water treatment plant; and a state-of-the -art space cooling plant with all building services controlled by a central building management system.

“Merci, merci,” said Haiti Minister of Tourism Stéphanie 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.”

The Marriott Port-au-Prince, which will be located in the Haut Turgeau area of the city, will offer 170 rooms, including five suites with Marriott’s signature amenities and features, including premium bedding, high-speed Internet (LAN and wireless) and flat-screen televisions. Dining options will 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 604 square metres (6,501 square feet) of flexible meeting space, a 150-square-metre (1,614-square-foot) fitness centre, swimming pool, and sundries shop/marketplace.