Today I was featured in ManManPemba.com, a blog about food, nightlife, events and shopping in Haiti! MMPB : Hi Diana, can you present yourself to the readers of the Pemba City Blog and share with us what made you participate to the contest organized by Minstry of Tourism ?
Diana Pierre-Louis : Hello readers! I am a public relations/social media marketing professional and founder of www.TheRealHaiti.com, a blog about the other side of Haiti that goes underreported. The Real Haiti is more than a blog, it’s a movement to educate followers by seeing stories from other Haitians or Haitian diaspora on positive memories, experiences, or places in Haiti. I know that once people learn more about Haiti and what it has to offer as a tourist destination, they will come.
I participated in the contest organized by the Ministry of Tourism because I am a lover of travel and a lover of Haiti. I want people to see the beauty in Haiti. Each person and project to educate people about Haiti is one step closer to helping Haiti’s tourism. I thought this contest was a wonderful way to engage people and it really exposed Haiti in a positive way. It’s amazing to see the positive publicity that the country has received over the last month. This is just the beginning to a great start encouraged by the Ministry.
MMPB : Could you explain why did you choose the slogan “Experience it” ? Why did you think this would be a good slogan to promote Haiti Tourism ?
Diana Pierre-Louis : It’s funny, I came up with it by saying, “I don’t know how to describe Haiti, you just have to experience it!” It was a heartfelt statement that I made that shortly became the slogan for the country. I chose “Experience it” because it truly takes an experience in Haiti to appreciate the country 100%. There is so much to do, to see, to hear, to feel, to eat…these are all experiences. I couldn’t have come up with this slogan if I hadn’t visited Haiti before. I am hoping that this slogan speaks to foreigners so that they will experience Haiti and then tell their family and friends. In a digital world, word of mouth advertising is still the most effective!
MMPB : According to you, what are the main strengths and weakness of tourism sector in Haiti, what are the main challenges to make Haiti a destination choice, rather than DR, Bahamas, etc ?
Diana Pierre-Louis : Haiti is different. Haiti is authentic and real. Haiti is a place that people fall in love with the minute they get there.
I have been to almost every island in the Caribbean. There is no other like Haiti. This is a huge benefit for the country in promoting and maintaining tourism. Now that there is an ambitious, dedicated team that is working on improving tourism, I know that it will soon be on the list for Caribbean destinations next to the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Jamaica. The logo and slogan are finally a way to identify Haiti and make a connection to it in a positive way. So many people love Haiti and this “brand” was well needed. Now it’s time to highlight the culture, food, music, art and so many great things about Haiti to get visitors to come. There’s a saying in marketing, “If you build it, they will come.”
The biggest challenge that I’ve noticed in the hotel industry in Haiti is the lack of online feasibility. Some hotels are doing a perfect job in representing their brand online with a website and communicating on social media. However, it’s still nearly impossible to book a reservation online in any hotel. Although it might cost money to invest in a program or staff for this, it will be well worth it. (Americans) are used to instant gratification. If the room rates aren’t listed online and you have to call or email for information, people will lose their attention and go away frustrated. That might result in fewer visitors. It needs to be as easy and quick as possible so that they book right when they are on the website. Although it’s ok for me because I know it’s worth, first time visitors won’t have the same feeling and might pick a different country to visit because it’s just easier.
Making Haiti a choice as a destination is the first step. If hotel and tour packages get listed on Expedia, Travelocity, or Orbitz for example, people will finally see it as an option. Then, convincing the tourist that it’s safe and most importantly different than any other island, is the next step. This can be done online with professional pictures, videos and reviews of past travelers. This has already started on tripadvisor.com, on social media (and this blog!). However, you can only find the information if you’re specifically searching hotels in Haiti. The information needs to be more prevalent on websites that tourists go to for searching for a destination when they are trying to decide where to go.
Diana’s 5 favorite places in Haiti :
Caribbean Supermarket: I love this supermarket because I can get my favorite coffee creamer to put in my Haitian coffee…just kidding. I love this store because there is a great variety of products and goods. Although there are imported brands, there are many authentic foods and drinks to buy. It is very affordable, clean, organized and customer friendly.
Hollywood: This restaurant/club is such a gem. I visited it twice on my last vacation to Haiti. It has blazing cold air conditioning, great Haitian food, great music and a huge dance area. The staff treated us with true Haitian hospitality and made us go back the second time.
Auberge Au Picolet Restaurant (Cap-Haitien): Although I didn’t stay at the hotel, I did eat lunch at the restaurant. The atmosphere is great with a sea breeze and view. The service was very good and the food was great! The curry chicken was wonderful!
Quartier Latin: This is hands down my favorite restaurant that I’ve ate at so far in Haiti. It is charming, historical, romantic and delicious. The service is always good and always great food. I love the notes on the walls in the bathroom from visitors. It shows how much people love Haiti.
Moulin Sur Mer: One of the most charming hotels in Haiti. I felt like I was staying at a family members house. I felt welcomed and at home! Although the rooms are a little are small, they are beautifully decorated as authentic gingerbread style and very comfortable. Visit the Ogier-Fombrun Museum located near the entrance of the hotel. There’s no tour guide, but you’ll be able to see lots of history and learn a lot!
Or, check it out here!