Cruise Industry Responds to Earthquake in Haiti

After the catastrophic earthquake struck Haiti, Royal Caribbean had a difficult decision to make: to include Labadee in its itineraries for the coming weeks or not.
The company said the question of whether to “deliver a vacation experience so close to the epicentre of an earthquake” had been subject to considerable internal debate before it decided to include Haiti in its itineraries for the coming weeks.
“In the end, Labadee is critical to Haiti’s recovery; hundreds of people rely on Labadee for their livelihood,” said John Weis, vice-president. “In our conversations with the UN special envoy of the government of Haiti, Leslie Voltaire, he notes that Haiti will benefit from the revenues that are generated from each call. “We also have tremendous opportunities to use our ships as transport vessels for relief supplies and personnel to Haiti. Simply put, we cannot abandon Haiti now that they need us most.”
“Friday’s call in Labadee went well,” said Royal Caribbean. “Everything was open, as usual. The guests were very happy to hear that 100% of the proceeds from the call at Labadee would be donated to the relief effort.”
Forty pallets of rice, beans, powdered milk, water, and canned foods were delivered on Friday, and a further 80 are due and 16 on two subsequent ships. When supplies arrive in Labadee, they are distributed by Food for the Poor, a longtime partner of Royal Caribbean in Haiti.
Royal Caribbean has also pledged $1m to the relief effort and will spend part of that helping 200 Haitian crew members.
Though there were some negative comments about the call in Labadee, tourism, development and business leaders are hailing a difficult decision by Royal Caribbean Cruises, one of Haiti’s largest foreign investors. “We may have had our differences of opinion about the true value of the cruise industry to Caribbean destinations – but there is absolutely no doubt in our minds of the enormous economic and psychological value of Royal Caribbean’s resumed cruises to Haiti,” said Lelei LeLaulu, a director of the Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx).
François Guillaume Jr., executive director of the Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce of Florida, who survived the quake after leaving the now flattened Hotel Montana minutes before it collapsed, asserted, “we need the cruise industry more than ever to continue visiting Haiti.”
Guillaume noted in the wake of such a complex emergency, “We need to pursue all avenues of economic development and I support the stance of the cruise industry not only to sail to our shores, but for delivering important disaster relief assistance.”
Former Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, Senator Allen Chastanet, Saint Lucia’s Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation, said “Hundreds of people are earning money from the resumed cruises and thousands more family members and local businesses are benefiting from this infusion of cruise company cash.”
Minister Chastanet, who has worked in travel and tourism marketing and development, saw another plus for resumed cruises so soon after the earthquake: “Importantly for the devastated people of Haiti, the resumption of the cruises is a huge morale booster because it signals to the world that ‘we are back in business’”.
Meanwhile, LeLaulu further stated: “The cruises are businesses, sure, but remember these businesses were quick to respond. Carnival Cruise Lines unhesitatingly gave US $5 million to Haiti relief, the most generous corporate donation so far and one which will spur other companies to contribute.”
Taking an active part in the relief efforts, Royal Caribbean is donating more than US $2 million, and its profits from the Labadee stops.