Best Western to open hotel in Haiti this year

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Best Western International Inc. will open a high-end hotel in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area this summer, a company executive said Thursday.

The seven-story hotel will have 105 guest rooms, a restaurant and lounge, a full spa and a swimming pool, and is aimed at business travelers, bankers and diplomats.

It will be managed by Haitians and will employ more than 50 local people after its expected opening in July or August, Best Western official Mark Williams said in a telephone interview from the company's headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona.

“We want a nice quality product in a country that needs help,” said Williams, Best Western's vice president for North American development. “It will be one of the best on the island.”

He said he didn't know the immediate cost of the project but each of the 105 guest rooms will cost about $150,000.

The new hotel is the latest step in Haiti's efforts to develop its hotel sector after the devastating earthquake two years ago. The disaster destroyed the southern half of the country, displaced more than a million people and toppled thousands of buildings, including a handful of hotels.

President Michel Martelly's administration is trying to rebuild Haiti in part by attracting outside businesses to invest in the Caribbean nation, which was long shunned because of cumbersome laws and a reputation for graft and sporadic political unrest. Government officials hope to revive the once thriving tourism sector by developing seaside resorts.

In a statement seeking to lure investors, Martelly acknowledged at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that corruption in Haiti had driven away investors.

“This is changing under my administration, corruption will not be tolerated, and furthermore we have a zero tolerance policy on corruption,” Martelly said, according to the statement released Thursday by the National Palace.

Plans to bring Best Western to Haiti began before the earthquake, in 2008, when a group of Haitian investors led by Christopher Handal, approached the chain about opening a hotel in Haiti, Williams said.

After the quake, Best Western raised about $200,000 from customers and employees in a special relief fund and gave the money for Haiti projects run by World Vision, a religious charity.

When the hotel opens this summer in the heart of Petionville, a hillside city southeast of the capital, the majority of the property will be Haitian-owned, Williams said.

Best Western, which operates in more than 100 countries, isn't the only one coming to Haiti.

Marriott International Inc. announced plans in November for a $45 million, 173-room hotel, to be built in partnership with the Digicel mobile phone company. The hotel is scheduled to open in 2014.

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