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26132: Durban: (comment) Cap Haitien Presidential Challenge (fwd)
From: Lance Durban <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Last weekend we made our first trip back to Cap Haitien since
the year-end millenium celebrations in December 1999. An
interesting two days in Haiti's second city, although the place
is positively begging for infrastructure investment.
One of the unemployed "guides" up at the Citadelle parking lot,
commenting on that fact that there were virtually NO tourists,
opined that the politician who promises to bring back the
tourists to Cap Haitien would win all of the votes in the North.
And with that as background, here's an idea that an astute
presidential candidate might want to jump on.
How about issuing a challenge to his countrymen akin to
Kennedy's 1959 pledge to get to the moon in 10 years? Only this
time it would be to build a first class paved road from Labadee
straight through Cap Haitien, on to the Dominican border... with
a side detour leading up to the Citadelle parking lot, to be
accomplished before the end of his/her 5 year presidential
There is some logic to this one: it's called building on what
you already have. Namely, (1) the Citadelle, thoughtfully
constructed by Henri Christophe almost 200 years ago, and (2)
some 3000 to 6000 Royal Caribbean Cruise passemgers who visit
Labadee every week, few of whom have any idea of where they are!
OK then, here's the plan, step-by-step:
1. A major new road is built by the unemployed masses of Cap
Haitien, who will be hired by one of several competing
sub-contractors for each of several route segments. Competitive
bidding only through public tender with performance bonds
required. Foreign firms invited to bid.
2. Private sector firms are invited to provide motorcoach
service to Royal Caribbean (RCCL) for round-trip excursions from
Labadee to the Citadelle on the days the ships are in. Royal
Caribbean will vet the providers and of course coaches must be
maintained to a high standard. Royal Caribbean itself might opt
to provide one bus to develop cost/feasibility data before
inviting private operators to bid.
3. The Haitian Gov't finally commits to attracting tourists by
setting up the welcome wagon so to speak at the Citadelle. Free
drinks for all RCCL passemngers, gift packs with promo coupons
and websites for other Haitian sites/hotels/events, a free
informative handout giving some background IN ENGLISH, serious
control of the over-zealous parking lot guides. All of this is
basic Tourism 101. And it IS PAID FOR by the entrance fee to
this World Class Historical Site. The goal, of course, is to
spark some interest in Haiti. Most cruise passengers I have
spoken to consider the day at Labadee Beach their most enjoyable
day on their RCCL cruise. A properly operated Citadelle
excursion would be unbeatable!
4. Continue the road building on to the Dominican border...
make it a better road than what is found on the other side of
the border. Then negotiate with the Dominican government for
easier cross border travel and encourage the Puerta Plata crowds
to spend a day visiting the Citadelle and/or Labadee. Dominican
hotels in the North will be competing to charter those
super-clean coaches on days the RCCL ships are not at Labadee.
5. Clean up the bay of Cap Haitien. Drag those dozen rusting
ship carcasses out and give them a proper buriel at sea. Build
a new marina on the north end of town where (presumably) you
could actually build a deep water port with the least dredging.
Make this a limited-access, tourist-friendly port, and include a
sizeable chunk of the better north end of the city (let's make
the Roi Christophe Hotel the southwestern corner). Only
residents and people with a city-approved permits allowed to
enter. Then, let's watch the cruise lines return!
Folks, Haiti needs a president who can bring back hope, a leader
who can forget about the recent political past and bring all of
Haiti's citizens together in a huge shared undertaking, namely
rebuilding the country. This is what 99% of the Haitian
population is waiting for, a confident and competent candidate
able to provide that vision. We are now hearing a lot of
concern about whether the elections will be organized and run
properly, when we should be wondering if there will be any
candidates worth voting for. Seems to me that someone with
sound ideas for tackling the problems of Cap Haitien would
certainly win some votes in the North