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Opening of upscale hotels marks turning point in Haiti's reconstruction

Several hotels are scheduled to open or begin construction over the next few months in Haiti, raising expectations of the country's recovery from the devastating 2010 earthquake. 

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Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, still struggling to recover from a devastating earthquake in January 2010 that killed an estimated 250,000 people and left more than 1 million homeless.

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Some 358,000 earthquake victims were still living in camps and makeshift settlements as of October 2012, according to the most recent survey by the International Organization for Migration.

The Oasis by Occidental is the first international hospitality brand to operate in the troubled country in years, a faint echo of Haiti's heyday in the 1950s and 1960s when the Caribbean island was a hip destination for international celebrities.

Haiti was previously home to a Club Med, a French resort chain that operated on a palm-lined strip of beach north of Port-au-Prince, and a Holiday Inn in the capital's teeming downtown. 

STRONG MESSAGE

The return of major hospitality brands sends a strong message, says Ulrick Emmanuel Noel, director of investment for the Ministry of Tourism.

"It shows that we're open to international partnerships ... (and) that we're preparing to be a serious international destination," Noel said. "Private investors are starting to trust the Haitian state."

According to the Ministry of Tourism, about half of the capital's roughly 1,600 hotel rooms were lost in the January 2010 earthquake. By mid-2013, metropolitan Port-au-Prince will have some 3,500 hotel rooms.

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