Saturday, January 16, 2010

Royal Carribean Pier Came Out of Haitian Earthquake OK

President Bill Clinton, Special UN Envoy to Haiti, courted investors in 2009. Three American branded multinationals stepped up to the plate, Royal Carribean, Choice Hotels and Best Western. Choice Hotels and Best Western opened or plan to build properties in Haiti.

Royal Caribbean has a lease until 2050 on 260 acres in Labadee, which sits on a northern peninsula. The cruise line constructed an 800 foot pier, a roller coaster and extended a palm lined beach in a $55 million investment. Royal Carribean plans to bring the world's largest cruise ship, Oasis of the Seas, to Labadee. This will increase the need for excursions. USAID is providing $15 million to train Haitians for the hospitality industry.

The earthquake struck Haiti on 1/12. Travel Beat indicated on 1/14:

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.’s facilities at Labadee appear to have escaped damage from the 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti on Wednesday evening about 10-miles southwest of Port-au-Prince.

"All is fine in Labadee. No one is hurt and we believe there are no issues with our new pier," RCCL’s Craig Milan, SVP Land Operations, told Seatrade Insider. He added that Cap Haitien is, by all accounts, in relatively good shape, too.

A 1/16 Travel Beat post highlighted Royal Carribean's at least $1 million in aid for the Haitian relief effort. They plan to work through 3 local charities and use their cruise ships to deliver needed goods and supplies.

The State Department is coordinating aid for Haiti. Before the quake rattled the country, Hillary Clinton spoke of her vision for USAID. She envisioned USAID as the "world's premier development agency." I'm not sure how it transformed in less than a week.

From the Peter G. Peterson Institute, Hillary called for "investment, not aid." Is it the Royal Carribean model, pushed by her husband? The "new mindset for a new century" has a huge test. Will the privates fulfill her vision in Haiti?

Pre-quake there were stiff challenges. Will going back to the Stone Age improve the odds of success? Will that make people more receptive to big money philanthropy, now known as investment? Maybe that's why President Obama said America is going "slow & steady" on aid. Are we teaching compliance?

Robert Wenzel of Economic Policy Journal encouraged "God's Work" Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein to start a $1 billion fund to invest in Haiti. Mr. Blankfein could pull a fraction from Goldman's bonus pool to fund the initiative. I'm sure President Bill Clinton could line up other investors.

"Aid chases need, investment chases opportunity."-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Investment also chases taxpayer dollars. How might these two memes intersect? Keep a close eye on Haiti, currently in desperate need of basic aid.

Update 1-18-10: Royal Carribean cruises continue to operate in heavily guarded Labadee.

Update 2-3-13:  Tourism is "the way" to restore Haiti.  The World Bank and Clinton-Bush Haiti fund invested nearly $10 million to build a five star Royal Oasis luxury hotel. Meanwhile many Haitians suffer in horrific conditions over three years after the devastating earthquake.

Update 8-21-14:  Haiti drove out legions of poor for Clinton driven corporate development.