New Hotels Lead Haiti’s Recovery

This yet-to-be-named hotel at the Port-Au-Prince airport opens in mid-2012.

The hotel industry has become an important catalyst in Haiti’s recovery from the earthquake that devastated the Caribbean country last January. At least two hotels, including one ground-up construction, are under development.

Perhaps the most ambitious project is a 240-room conference hotel that’s scheduled to start construction later this year near the capital Port-Au-Prince’s airport. A group that includes an Argentinean entrepreneur and a Haiti-based conglomerate are developing the hotel, which should open in mid-2012. The $33-million property will be self-contained with an on-site power plant and water treatment and sewage facilities. No name or brand has been announced for the hotel.

U.S.-based OBM International is designing the hotel, which will be built using a combination of standard construction methods and pre-fabricated processes. The property will have meeting space for 400, several f&b outlets, fitness center, pool and spa. Wisely, it will be built to meet or exceed all international earthquake standards, says OBM.

“We recognize the importance of having facilities that can house individuals during the rebuilding process,” says Rolando Gonzalez-Bunster, one of the developers. “It’s currently extremely challenging to secure accommodation since so much of the infrastructure was decimated by the earthquake.”

A rendering of the rebuilt Hotel Villa St. Louis

That problem—finding a place to stay—is one of the biggest challenges Nikolas Eastwick-Field is facing as he and his firm, NEF&JM Associates, help in the redevelopment of The Hotel Villa St. Louis, a boutique hotel in Port-Au-Prince that was leveled by the quake.

“We’re facing a lot of challenges in the project—sourcing materials, securing financing, finding staff—but it’s not much different than any other development project,” he says. “Probably our biggest hurdle is finding someplace to sleep while we’re here.”

Eastwick-Field’s firm is part of a group of U.S. operators, designers and architects assisting the St. Louis family in rebuilding its property. If it opens as scheduled in early 2012, the Villa St. Louis will be the first hotel to reopen after the disaster. While the original property had 60 rooms, the rebuilt hotel will feature 78 rooms and suites, 22 extended-stay studio suites and loft apartments. Other facilities will include a fitness center, retail space, business center, restaurant and bar, meeting space and a pool.

Eastwick-Field says funding for the project comes from the St. Louis family, other local sources and a multi-nation funding agency. “The project has been well received by everyone that matters,” he says, noting the hotel has been approved by the ministry of tourism and the government is providing some tax incentives.

A major benefit of both projects is the jobs they’ll create. The Villa St. Louis will employ 500 to 600 construction workers and another 100 to 130 full- and part-time employees once the hotel opens.

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