Overloaders! we all know how hard we have worked to build Haiti’s tourism and put our country back on the map. It looks like Haiti has taken a major setback following the February protests. JetBlue, Air Canada, and Air Transat are limiting daily flights to the country, which on Wednesday announced that it’s canceling Carnival, scheduled to kick off this weekend.
According to the Miami Herald, JetBlue, which operates daily round-trip flights from Port-au-Prince to Boston, New York City, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, will reduce service starting in April. Air Canada, which operates round-trip flights from Port-au-Prince to Montreal, is suspending service now through April 29. Air Transat is reducing its Montreal-Port-au-Prince flight service in March and April and discontinuing its vacation packages in Haiti through October 2019. Air Canada and Air Transat cited “ongoing civil unrest in Haiti” as the reason for the change; JetBlue was less specific, citing reports from Haiti.
The violent protests that started early February have subsided but Canada, France and the U.S. State Department still have “Do Not Travel” warnings in place. The U.S. State Department has issued a level four travel advisory and ordered the evacuation of non-essential diplomats and their families from the country this month.
The airlines’ decision to limit service to Haiti comes after the travel site Expedia and its subsidiaries Travelocity, Orbitz, Hotwire and CheapTickets blocked travelers from booking flights to the island. As a result of the warnings and the unrest, hoteliers have seen a significant drop in room occupancy with some hotels being almost empty and forced to lay off staff. A recent visit to the Marriott Hotel in downtown Port-au-Prince found just four diners in the restaurant during breakfast last week.
Other airlines, including Delta, Spirit and American Airlines, are offering waivers for customers who want to change their plans. Spirit Airlines flies into Cap-Haïtien and Port-au-Prince.
Many businesses were banking on the biggest party of the year –Carnival– to bring in tourists. The government’s decision to cancel the National Carnival, scheduled to kick off in Gonaives this weekend, came after much debate on social media and Haitian radio.
Observers say this is only the third time in recent memories that the Haitian government has canceled Carnival. The previous two occasions were in 1986 after the fall of the nearly 30-year Duvalier family dictatorship and in 2010, after the country’s massive earthquake, which left more than 300,000 dead and 1.5 million injured and an equal number homeless.