Destination Haiti

March 1, 2015

Clinton haiti

I’ve worked on a lot of development deals, but none have involved a former U.S. President, celebrities and our associates.  It’s an incredible story of an inspired group coming together to build and now open the Marriott Port-au-Prince Hotel in Haiti. 

LandscapeJust five years ago on January 12, 2010, a major earthquake devastated Haiti and left much of the country in ruin.  I’ll never forget where I was – the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Hotel.  Our hotels in south Florida have many, many Haitian associates.  Our Harbor Beach hotel laundry team came up to me wondering about their families back home.  It was a very emotional time.  Many went back to their country to search through the rubble.  It was clear that this natural disaster had changed the country forever.  Many existing hotels were badly damaged, not to mention the infrastructure.  A massive rebuilding effort was needed to house both residents and relief workers. 

Our Floridian Haitian associates sent me a video message a few months later that said:  “Build it.” 

Hotels often serve as a bellwether.  As a country’s economy strengthens, hotels start to pop up.   We decided not to wait for this to happen in Haiti.  We saw an opportunity to help be the “spark” in the country’s recovery.  To bring the project to life, a powerful coalition was formed with the Clinton Global Initiative and Haiti’s leading telecommunications company, Digicel.  During the construction phase, there were obstacles everywhere, but the team didn’t lose its resolve.  And now Marriott is ready to welcome travelers from around the world to Haiti.

Haiti Marriott Associates

What visitors will find when they arrive is an adventurous destination with gorgeous beaches and friendly people.  This online article says it all: 

"Haiti is Open for Business: A new hotel in Port-au-Prince will bring business, employmentand hopeto a country in need."

It was rewarding to see how our Haitian associates embraced this project.  Their “build it” mantra turned into “work it.”  Many returned to their native country to help train and work in the hotel.  Sharon Sylhomme, a Haitian-American, “came home” for the first time to become Marriott’s Director of Finance.

Pierre Lucardo, Marriott’s first Haitian hire, has worked his way up from the slums of Cité Soleil.  Along with the other local youth hired, he was sent to the JW Marriott Santo Domingo for training.  This experience has transformed his life.

There are a lot of people to thank, but foremost is Haiti’s telecommunication company, Digicel, which owns the hotel.  Its chairman Denis O’Brien has made another wonderful investment in his community.   

I often talk about Marriott as a family business.  With Haiti we’ve added a new country and new family members.  It couldn’t have happened without our culture of helping others.  We call it our “Spirit to Serve.”  After all, that’s what family is all about.

I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.  

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I congratulate Marriott, Digicel and the Clinton Foundation for their work on this important project. I was in Haiti two years ago and saw the desperate conditions in that country, but a hotel is a positive and dynamic step to help turn around this situation.

I recently wrote a blog for Hotel News Now on this topic:

Inspiring read. Good luck to everyone in Haiti.

Nice to know about your hotel. Would love to visit there.

An inspiring story and one that will likely change many lives for the better!

I find it admirable that Marriott develops a hotel in an area that isn't an ideal destination but rather a company in need. Haiti is a nation that can use constant charity and goodwill from anyone willing to offer it, but by developing a hotel, not only is Marriott providing a direct stimulus to the economy but also providing a place for Haiti's citizens to work.

What an awesome story...but we know Marriott can make special things happen anywhere they elect to try.
I am so proud to be a consumer of the Marriott Brand sleeping in such fine bedding, in a clean room and feeling special . Just tonight at the Marriott Palm Beach Gardens Florida , I ran into Andre Desir in concierge lounge he remembered me from November and asked about my children. This young man is going to school in hospitality management and if Marriott was smart they would take him under their wing and help him with his career so he STAYS with the brand. He loves what he does and that is obvious by the number of people that come in and call him by name and he responds with their names. Andre shared that Feels you Should always treat the guest as if they were your family. I am paraphrasing another comment that Mr. Marriott would want to know about....Andre said you have to remember that guest come to the property some after a long day at work and with many things on their "plate" your responsibility is to make them feel at have to take the time to understand the 360° view of what motivates them and what motivates you to do what you do and build a relationship from that!" It is my pleasure to make them smile and feel at home. Andre should be the person training the concierge staff at all resorts ....he values the guest and his priority is getting guest to feel at home in the best way he can. I would hate to see him leave the Palm Beach Gardens Marriott ... But it would be awesome if they had a chance to further his career and doing something he loves in The Marriott Way and I know Mr. Marriott would be proud of the way this fine young man respects and values the guests! Debbie Ahrns. Rewards # 382170256