Marriott opens in Haiti, part of Digicel

When the first Marriott hotel debuts in Port-au-Prince on Feb. 24, it will be the realization of a request from former U.S. President Bill Clinton to the head of one of the Caribbean’s largest mobile phone networks to help bring much needed jobs to Haiti and help it once again become a tourist destination.

“There are a lot of good hotels in Haiti, but there needed to be a multinational brand,” said Denis O’Brien, the founder and chairman of telecom giant Digicel Group, which happily took on Clinton’s challenge. “That’s why we decided to spend $45 million building a hotel in Port-au-Prince.”

Located near downtown in the capital’s commercial district in Turgeau, the 175-room hotel will generate 200 jobs while promoting locally made goods — from coffee to bath soaps. The hotel is owned by Digicel and will be operated by Marriott, which now joins such brands as Best Western and Spain-based Royal Occidental Hotels & Resorts and NH Hotel Group on the country’s growing hotel scene.

Kingston, Jamaica-based Digicel, which was founded by O’Brien in 2000, operates mobile, cable and fiber optic networks in 32 countries in the Caribbean, Central America and Asia Pacific regions. As of Feb. 12, the company had seen $2.8 billion in sales, according to Forbes; the magazine said O’Brien himself has a net worth of $6.7 billion

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