North American tourists, faced with soaring prices, have begun searching further afield for places to spend their holidays.
North American tourists, faced with soaring prices, have begun searching further afield for places to spend their holidays. Once Mexico was popular as it was in comfortable driving distance, but massive increases in fuel costs have dimmed its popularity. Now many travellers are turning their attention to the island of Haiti, in the Caribbean.
During the rule of the infamous President Francois Duvalier (or "Papa Doc", as he was known), tourism was virtually unknown on the island. However, after the dictator's death in 1971, the industry sparked to life. By 1973, more than 150,000 tourists a year were visiting Haiti and spending more than 9 million US dollars (about 4 million pounds sterling). The 1974 statistics are expected to show an increase of about 50,000.
Haiti is still one of the most inexpensive countries in the world, and it is ideally situated to attract tourists from the United States and Canada. And for some Canadians, there is an added attraction - French is widely spoken on the island.
The capital, Port au Prince has a population of half a million ... a fifth of whom are now involved in the tourist industry. Many of the tourists arrive on cruise ships and stay only a few days ... but in those few days, they usually spend heavily. Their chief targets are local paintings and wood carvings, which are Haiti's main exports. There are more than 40,000 artists on the island and their work sells for as little as 30 US dollars (about 12 pounds sterling) ... and for as much as several thousand.
The colourful markets are a "must" for travelling amateur photographers ... but some get more than they bargained for. Unemployment and poverty is rife, and many of the natives take exception to this uninvited invasion of their privacy. They reply with traditional Creole curses and rotten fruit.