Would tourism to Haiti at this time hurt or help?

Is inviting tourists into a locale at a time of devastating tragedy morally wrong, or is it the right thing to do?
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

Is going on a cruise that stops in Haiti ethical? Is it something that you could do with a clear conscience? That's the question posed by A. Pawlowski in a CNN report on Royal Caribbean's ongoing cruise stops to Haiti, which was devastated by the recent earthquake.

Haiti's Labadee Peninsula is on the north coast, near Cap Haitien

Royal Caribbean maintains a resort on Haiti's picturesque peninsula of Labadee, which is isolated from the rest of the country. The cruise line operator just announced it is resuming stops at the resort.

Many are repulsed by the idea of enjoying sun and sand just 80 miles north of the destruction and desperation of the people of Port-Au-Prince.

Yet, some observers point out, the best thing people can do for Haiti right now -- behind sending contributions (visit the Clinton Bush Haiti fund here or American Red Cross fund here) -- is to visit and keep the economy going. Haiti relies heavily on tourism for jobs, and this is the peak season.

For its part, Royal Caribbean says it has been "one of Haiti’s largest foreign investors for almost 30 years," and also announced its plans to provide at least $1 million in humanitarian relief to Haiti in response to the catastrophic earthquake in Port-Au-Prince. Royal Caribbean said it would also be delivering much needed goods and supplies to Haiti via its cruise ships.

Richard D. Fain, chairman and chief executive officer, Royal Caribbean Cruises, added that "in addition to our financial contribution, Royal Caribbean will continue to provide economic support through the continuous business we bring to Labadee."

There are precedents for tourism helping to boost and sustain stricken areas. CNN's Pawlowski cites recent examples: "New York inviting visitors after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and New Orleans, Louisiana, appealing for tourist dollars after Hurricane Katrina in 2005."

The UN World Tourism Organization stated that "tourism can become a useful instrument for the necessary reconstruction process in Haiti," and Brian Mullis, president of Sustainable Travel International, is quoted as saying that "monies that are coming in as part of tourism are going to trickle down throughout the local economy at a time when the local people need it the most."

Is inviting tourists into or nearby a locale at a time of devastating tragedy morally wrong, or is it the right thing to do, because it will help residents keep their jobs and livelihoods, and keep the economy going?

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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