Haitian Tourism: The Role of the Profit Motive in Development

I was on CBC Radio’s “The Current,” this morning, talking (still!) about the issue of cruise ships visiting Haiti. Here’s the link to today’s show (scroll down to the third segment, called “Haiti Cruises”) or you can find the podcast here: Haiti Cruises.

The show included some useful comments from two other professors, (Rebecca Tiessen from Royal Military College who specializes in global development, and Brian White who is Director of the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management at Royal Roads University), both of whom had interesting perspectives on tourism and its contribution (or lack thereof) to developing nations in general.

Host Brent Bambury was full of great questions for me. My favourite was about the motives of companies doing business with Haiti. It’s at the very end of the interview. Here’s how the conversation went:

BB: Are you comfortable when you hear the CEO of Royal Caribbean, Mr. Goldstein, talking about his economic rationalizations for continuing to do business there — or do you hear, there, self-interest or a self-serving economic argument, at a time when really there’s this whole other moral question?”

CM: I hope I hear his self-interested argument coming through. Because, you know, there are organizations in the world that do things because they have, you know, good intentions towards others. But an awful lot of productive work in the world goes on because people find a way to make a living for themselves, right? So I think what Haiti desperately needs, you know, is a bunch of companies that find ways to make money in Haiti, in ways that are going to also be beneficial to Haitians. That kind of profit-making opportunities are what’s going to bring in companies that are going to provide jobs, provide export opportunities, things like that and I think that’s what Haiti’s going to need.

BB: It’s the second part of the argument, though, ‘In a way that will make benefits for Haitians,’ that’s the tricky part of the argument, because historically that hasn’t been there.

CM: Yeah, historically that hasn’t been there. There’s been — I’m not an expert on the history — but from what, you know, most people know, it’s a place that has had trouble in the past with achieving something like stable government and responsible government and those kinds of decisions haven’t always been good. So what we need to be looking for then, is transactions that Haitians see as being in their own best interests, to the best we can tell that, right? So I’m at least somewhat comforted with regard to the cruise ships when I hear reported by reputable…you know, by objective third parties, journalists and so on, that by and large Haitians are saying, ‘Yes, please, keep bringing the cruise ships — we see that as beneficial to us.’

2 comments so far

  1. jpbauer on

    Just listened to the replay of the Friday edition of “The Current”. WOW! Great interview with Brent Bambury. I especially liked your quick comeback response to Mr. Bambury’s question on the role of proximity when discussing issues of morality. You definitely are quite able to think and respond quickly on your feet – well done!

    I too agree with your observation that many people seem to be projecting their personal feelings of indignation and disgust when considering the basic issue of whether or not tourism is a good form of “business” in helping to stimulate the economy of a developing country/nation. Overall, you receive an A+

  2. […] Haitian Tourism: The Role of the Profit Motive in Development […]


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