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American Airlines Traveling To Okap: “Cap-Haïtien, Haiti”

AAtakeoffI am so very excited about this news. Cap-Haitien aka Okap is the next city on my list of cities I want to visit.

According to MiamiHerald:

Haiti’s historical mecca is expanding to the world. After a modified 757 transporting then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in October 2012 became the first large aircraft to touch down on its runway in decades, Cap-Haïtien will soon welcome similarly sized jets at its newly expanded and transformed international airport.

American Airlines began selling tickets on Sunday for daily nonstop service from Miami, starting Oct. 2, making it the first major airline to add Haiti’s second largest city to one of its routes. Ticket prices started at $193 per person for a one way economy seat, or $583 for business class.

Cap Haitien Airport courtesy of HBHH

“This is a big deal,” said Art Torno, American’s senior vice president of its operations in Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America. “That area of the country has about 35 percent of the population, and has always been a desirable place for us.”

Torno estimates that between 30 and 35 percent of American’s Haiti-bound passengers traveling from JFK in New York, Miami International and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airports currently head north after landing at Toussaint L’Overture International Airport in Port-au-Prince.

Expanding operations outside of the Haitian capital, he said, is not just good for business, it also benefits Haiti’s tourism, currently undergoing an overhaul.

“From a location standpoint, it’s just absolutely perfect to serve that part of the population,” Torno said of the area, which includes Royal Caribbean’s private beach in Labadee and a post-earthquake $300 million U.S.-backed industrial park. “There is a large drive to develop infrastructure there. It’s important for the country; having spent so much time in Port-au-Prince this is another opportunity for economic development in the country, and that will take some pressure off the capital.”

Clinton and her husband, former President and U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton, visited the area in October 2012, landing within minutes of each other on a newly asphalted 7,500-foot runway, to attend the industrial park’s opening. Their arrival was as much about promoting economic development for the area, as it was about tourism.

“This is an important step toward Haiti’s continued economic growth,” the former president, who had long pushed for a modern airport in the region, told the Miami Herald. “Investors will now be able to easily access industrial parks and a growing number of small businesses in and around Cap-Haïtien, and tourists will be able to visit important World Heritage sites.”

Maryse Pénette Kedar, a former tourism secretary of state who is president of Royal Caribbean’s Haitian subsidiary, also sees American’s expansion as “a major development.”

“This is great news for the northern region, for the people, the diaspora and the business community,” she said. “It is a gate opener and I am happy this is finally happening.” – Continue reading here

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