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Digicel, Marriott break ground on Haiti hotel

Published:Sunday | December 23, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Denis O'Brien, chairman of Digicel Group, left, delivers a speech during a groundbreaking ceremony in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, December 19, 2012. Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International is seated in the background. Construction crews on Wednesday began to build what is touted as Haiti's first four-star branded hotel. -AP

Construction crews on Wednesday began to build what is touted as Haiti's first four-star branded hotel, a US$45 million project expected to help boost the country's economy.

The resort will be owned by Unigestion Holding SA, a subsidiary of Digicel Group Limited, and managed by Marriott, Digicel announced last November.

The hotel will create some 200 jobs and is scheduled to open in early 2015, officials said. It will feature 175 rooms and will be located in the Turgeau area of Port-au-Prince.

The hotel is one of several planned for the capital and surrounding areas as Haiti tries to recover from a devastating 2010 earthquake that officials say killed 300,000 people.

"This is a huge vote of confidence in the future of Haiti," Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Officials said the Marriott hotel will feature a large ballroom that can seat up to 500 people.

"Not only will this be a solution to the lodging issues in the city, it will also create jobs, attract foreign visitors and communicate a positive outlook for the future of Haiti," said Denis O'Brien, chairman of Digicel Group.

Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International, said the company also is working with Haiti's tourism and education officials to improve hospitality training.

"We believe we can make a difference in Haiti by creating jobs and developing the human talent that can help lift this country over time back to its rightful place as one of the top destinations in the Caribbean," he said.

The hotel, along with others that are still in planning stages, are not targeting tourists but rather contractors, foreign aid workers and diplomats. Many have struggled to find accommodations, with nearly 850 hotel rooms destroyed in the earthquake.