Saturday, January 28, 2012


Clinton Foundation Instrumental 
in Bringing the Two Companies Together

Port-au-Prince, Haiti – In Haiti, where new economic activity is critical in the midst of the tremendous efforts to rebuild in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in 2010, Marriott International (NYSE: MAR) announced recently it would open the $45 million, 173-room Port-au-Prince Marriott Hotel, under management agreement with ownership group Unigestion Holding S.A., a subsidiary of Digicel Group Ltd.  In addition to creating 175 new jobs, Marriott will invest in hospitality training to benefit Haiti's tourism sector.                                                                                   
Digicel Group is responsible for designing and building the hotel and chose Marriott International’s flagship Marriott Hotels & Resorts brand as its operating partner under a long-term management agreement. Construction on the property is expected to begin in 2012, with opening expected in mid-2014.   (view video)

With roughly 500 hotel rooms operating in the city, the Port-au-Prince Marriott will add 173 rooms to the capital city and create much needed lodging and meeting space for business travelers seeking to invest in the country, non-government organizations (NGOs), humanitarian organizations, reconstruction teams, financial institutions and visitors to the capital. Port-au-Prince is located in the southern part of the country on the Gulf of Gonave and is home to approximately 20 percent of the country’s population.

The Clinton Foundation has worked closely with Marriott and Digicel to develop this project. The Foundation connected Marriott and Digicel knowing their mutual interests in the hotel sector, visited proposed construction sites with the parties and facilitated introductions to the Haitian government and the Haitian Tourism Association.

“This new hotel project will stand as a symbol of Haiti’s recovery, providing much needed jobs to the Haitian people and encouraging foreigners to visit, invest and work in Port-au-Prince," said President Clinton. "My Foundation has worked with both Marriott and Digicel, and encouraged them to form this partnership.  Their investment proves that Haiti is open for business and on the path to economic recovery."

Digicel Chairman and founder, Denis O’Brien, commented; “Working with Marriott International to bring the flagship Marriott Hotels & Resorts brand to Haiti communicates confidence in the country’s outlook and is a huge step towards attracting more long-term investment into the country. With lodging options severely limited in Port-au-Prince, this is indeed bright news.”

Digicel is the single largest private investor in Haiti and the country’s largest telecoms provider. Mr. O’Brien is also founder and patron of Digicel Foundation, a charitable organization actively involved in rebuilding Haiti which to date has constructed a total of 70 schools. The Digicel Foundation has collaborated with the Clinton Global Initiative, which was founded by President Clinton.  As chairman of the Clinton Global Initiative’s Haiti Action Network, Mr. O’Brien has been instrumental in supporting 80 support organizations in Haiti and reconstructing the iconic Iron Market in Port-au-Prince.

“Haiti is in great need of quality hotels today, and for the foreseeable future," said Arne Sorenson, Marriott International’s president and chief operating officer.  “This hotel is one more signal that Haiti is open for business. That’s what we’re telling the world today as part of our announcement. Of course, this is a long-term goal with tremendous needs still need to be met, but we believe we can make a difference in Haiti by injecting capital, creating jobs and developing the human talent that can help lift this country over time back to its rightful place as one of the top destinations in the Caribbean.

“The selection of the Marriott Hotels & Resorts brand to be constructed in Port-au-Prince is very deliberate.  We aspire for a hotel of our flagship brand to be located in every capital in countries where we operate.  Over time, as Haiti continues to heal, rebuild and develop, our hotel will not only help the many organizations serving Haiti now, but would also stimulate business and attract leisure visitors in the future. Combined with the local businesses we can support, this is the ‘multiplier effect’ that travel and tourism brings to the economies of emerging countries.

"Marriott has special gratitude for our Haitian associates, 1,000 of whom work at our South Florida hotels, who urged us to do what we know best in Haiti and build this hotel," Sorenson added.
Since the earthquake, the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., which has approximately 250 Haitian associates, has been involved in two relief missions to Haiti delivering clothing, food and water, toiletries, rebuilding homes, orphanages, schools and other humanitarian support. Associates of Marriott's South Florida hotels have raised $200,000 to support recovery efforts.  In 2010, the J. Willard and Alice Marriott Foundation contributed $500,000 to the Red Cross for immediate earthquake relief and resettlement efforts.  (Bill Marriott blogs about Haiti hotel)

The Port-au-Prince Marriott, which will be located in the Haute Turgeau area of the city, will offer 168 rooms and five suites with Marriott’s signature amenities and features, including premium bedding, high-speed Internet (LAN and wireless) and flat-screen televisions.  Dining options will include a casual restaurant, a lobby bar and lounge and 24-hour room service.  The hotel will include about 428 square meters (4,606 square feet) of flexible meeting space, a 150-square-meter (1,614-square-foot) fitness center, swimming pool, and sundries shop/marketplace.

Marriott Hotels & Resorts continues to inspire and provide a balanced life on the road for discerning and high-achieving business and leisure travelers, offering warm, professional service; sophisticated yet functional guest room design; lobby spaces that facilitate working, dining and socializing; restaurants and bars serving international cuisine prepared simply and from the freshest ingredients; meeting and event spaces and services that are gold standard; and expansive, 24-hour fitness facilities. All Marriott hotels participate in the award winning Marriott Rewards frequent travel program that allows members to earn hotel points or airline miles for every dollar spent during each stay. For more information, visit
Visit Marriott International, Inc (NYSE: MAR) for company information. For more information or reservations, please visit our website at , and for the latest company newsvisit

After ten years of operation, Digicel Group Limited has 11.5 million customers across its 32 markets in the Caribbean, Central America and the Pacific. The company is renowned for delivering best value, best service and best network.

Digicel is the lead sponsor of Caribbean, Central American and Pacific sports teams, including the Special Olympics teams throughout these regions. Digicel sponsors the West Indies cricket team and is also the title sponsor of the Digicel Caribbean Cup. In the Pacific, Digicel is the proud sponsor of several national rugby teams and also sponsors the Vanuatu cricket team.  Digicel also runs a host of community-based initiatives across its markets and has set up Digicel Foundations in Jamaica, Haiti and Papua New Guinea which focus on educational, cultural and social development programmes.
In 2004, Digicel developed Digicel Rising Stars – an annual talent show to support aspiring young music artists in the Caribbean. The show has spanned the Eastern Caribbean, Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago ranking as one of the top-rated shows.

Digicel is incorporated in Bermuda and its markets comprise: Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Bermuda, Bonaire, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominica, El Salvador, Fiji, French Guiana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Nauru, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, St Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos and Vanuatu. Digicel also has coverage in St. Martin and St. Barts in the Caribbean.
Visit for more information.


Building on a lifetime of public service, President Bill Clinton established the William J. Clinton Foundation with the mission to improve global health, strengthen economies, promote healthier childhoods, and protect the environment by fostering partnerships among governments, businesses, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and private citizens to turn good intentions into measurable results. Since 2001 President Clinton's vision and leadership have resulted in nearly 4 million people benefiting from lifesaving HIV/AIDS treatment; more than 12,000 U.S. schools building healthier learning environments; more than 26,000 micro-entrepreneurs, small business owners, and smallholder farmers improving their livelihoods and communities; and more than 2.2 million tons of greenhouse gases cut or abated in some of the world's largest cities. And President Clinton has redefined the way we think about giving and philanthropy through his Clinton Global Initiative, whose members have made more than 2,100 commitments that have already improved the lives of 400 million people in more than 180 countries.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

BAHIA: Some Like It HOT!!!!


So this is Bahia.
Its reputation precedes it. I’ve heard Salvador de Bahia, Brazil is a happening place. I’ve heard there is no other city like it in the world. I’ve heard it can’t be missed.
Since my ears were burning, I decided to go see for myself whether this cultural mecca could live up to the hype.
Now that I’ve been there, only two words come to mind.
Oh, My!
    Oh, My, what a beautiful, black city! Oh, My, what a unique culture! Oh, My, aren’t the people stunning and friendly! Oh, My, the food is mouthwatering! Oh, My, why didn’t I come here sooner?
    Not only are these good and accurate declarations, they are all excellent reasons to visit Bahia.
And, here’s another one - Bahia is hot in every sense of the word!
Whether you’re talking about the people, the culture, or the temperature – it all sizzles!


    The city, located near the equator, is visually stunning and culturally appealing. It’s an exotic, tropical locale with a spicy disposition and a saucy persona.
Whether your mission is food, museums, music, nightlife – or just to relax, Bahia, the third largest city in Brazil, is a metropolis with plenty to do and see.
And, to get you there, American Airlines has made it as easy as one, two, three.
Now, more than ever, there is no excuse not to make your way to Bahia.
    With an edict to increase visitors to the region, American Airlines has not only made it faster and more economical, the company also added daily, nonstop flights from Miami to Salvador de Bahia and to Recife, located in the northeast region of Brazil.
To that end, Bahia’s hospitality begins at the airport when - a "Baina do Acarage," (one of the women who still practices "Candomble," the ancient African religion of her enslaved ancestors) donned in a large, circular, white dress with colorful adornments, greets you with rainbow blushed ribbons of Senhor do Bonfim -signifying loyalty and belief to the inhabitants of Bahia.


If you’re not fluent in Portuguese, and you plan to take a tour of the city, you may want to hire a guide as much of the signage is in that language and not everyone speaks English. Of course, if you know some Spanish, you more than likely won’t be lost in translation.
    Now, it’s time to start your tour of an amazing city that boasts everything from rain forests to deserts.
    The identity of most cities is housed in their museums and their small towns. Bahia is no different. The culture and its significance are on view at the Afro-Brazilian Museum, located in the Central Historical section of the city.
Here are just some of the highlights: Praça Municipal, Santa Casa de Misericórdia, Cruz Caída – Charriôt, Terreiro de Jesus – (the history of benediction), Laranjeira Street, Boutique Ilê, Project Axé, Jorge Amado’s House and Church Rosário dos Pretos – Carmo’s Church and Oludum Creative School.


In Bahia, the percussive impulse of Olodum has become an internationally known musical and cultural phenomenon. Olodum is the music of the culture, the music of the streets, the music of the heart.
Olodum, Salvador's best-known drumming group, gained international fame when it participated in Paul Simon's "Rhythm of the Saints" tour and recordings. The group, which has its own venue, the Casa do Olodum, has served as a backbone for the Black community of Salvador.
Music is big in Bahia. There is a rhythm swirling in the air that is infectious and powerful. One couldn’t stand still if they wanted to.


    The Escola Olodum school for kids, launched by the Olodum Cultural Group, is a remarkable facility that caters to children having problems. Part of the curriculum includes the discipline of learning to play the drums, dance and team work. But, it goes even deeper. It’s about building self-worth and a sense of well-being, as well as a sense of satisfaction and inclusion.


    If you’re into arts and crafts and want to get a great deal on some authentic pieces of Brazilian art, be sure to visit the Mercado Modelo, a spacious indoor/outdoor marketplace. Great deals are sure to be had!


    When visiting Bahia, don’t limit yourself to only tourist attractions. You want to see and become familiar with the real Brazil. Immerse yourself into the Bahian Afro culture. Visit Acaraje da Cira, located at Largo de Itapuã as well as in Rio Vermelho on the Largo do Mariquito. It’s a restaurant where locals and visitors chow down on the acaraje, which is a deep-fried bread that's made with mashed beans that have had the skins removed. It’s a staple in the area.
    Buccaneers Restaurant is only a ferry ride away. The shrimp, pineapple and orange appetizer, fish entrée and ice cream with ginger are all too delicious to adequately describe.


    Another great place for dessert is Sorveteria Da Ribeira for some of the most incredible ice cream/gelato your tastebuds have ever experienced. It truly is not to be missed.
    Once your palate has been sufficed, be sure to check out The Church of Nosso Senhor do Bonfim, which is the most famous of the Catholic churches in Bahia. It was built in the 18th century on a hill in the Itapagipe peninsula and is the subject of deep religious commitment by the people of Salvador. It is believed that the church has curative properties and that those seeking divine intervention often leave replicas of body parts or photographs of the infirm inside the church. It’s also the site of Festa do Senhor do Bonfim, a famous celebration held in January annually.


    Legend has it that the number of churches located in Bahia is 365 – to match each day of the year. It hasn’t been verified, but there does seem to be a church on every corner.
    One of those is St. Francis Church (1708-1750), done in baroque and decked out with gold leafs. It’s considered one of the most beautiful churches in South America.
    Religion is a major part of the Bahian culture. While Catholicism is dominant, so, too, is Candomble, an Afro-Brazilian religion originated by the Yorubas in West Africa.
A local and tourist favorite is the 110-sq. meter Dique do Tororó, a lagoon decorated with 12 large “Orixas” statues, by artist Tati Moreno. Orixá is a divine figure that, in life, establishes a connection with certain natural forces such as thunder, wind, water, ocean, or the exercise of certain activities such as hunting, working with metals, the knowledge of properties of plants and its use.

After all of that sightseeing, it’s time to rest your head and relax at one of many hotels and/or resorts. Each has its own personality and offers something unique to its clientele.
The GRAN HOTEL STELLA MARIS RESORT, which is only seven kilometers from the International Airport of Salvador and the Convention Center of Bahi, is the first five-star all-inclusive hotel of the Sol Express Chain in Salvador. It has 334 apartments, including a presidential suite, one master suite, two special needs apartments, plus triple and conjugate apartments facing the sea and the garden.
The urban resort has wireless internet, cable television and 110 volt electricity (same as the U.S.).
    The International Restaurant serves up to 520 people. There is also a “kitchen restaurant” specializing in Italian food that serves 160 people and a Japanese restaurant for up to 60 people.
Highlights include a semi-Olympic swimming pool, a children’s swimming pool, poly-sports and squash court, Kid’s Club, health club, and a game room.

Pelourinho is as good a place as any to start your adventure. It’s the oldest part of town and has an elevator that eliminates the precipitous climb from the sea level harbor to the buildings situated in the mountainside. What you’ll find are numerous 16th century churches and monuments, along with thousands of multihued homes decked out with blue Portuguese picture tiles that line the narrow cobble-stoned streets.
If an out of the way, exquisite, five-star hotel is your thing, THE CONVENTO DO CARMO, the first luxury historic hotel in Brazil, is sure to please. A former convent dating back to the XVI Century, the hotel, located in Pelourinho, is decked out with colonial furniture and graceful works of art.  There are 79 elegant rooms and suites as well as internet access.  Dining is outrageous. Offerings include traditional Portuguese and contemporary cuisine, complemented with a special local touch. Extras include the L'Occitane SPA. Event and meeting space at CONVENTO DO CARMO can handle up to 300 persons.
For a great day trip from Salvador, experience the fascinating city of Cachoeira (which means waterfall), located near All Saints Bay. Soak in the city's unique history and colorful, mostly preserved colonial architecture. This tour also includes a visit to the town's churches - Igreja Matriz and the Ordem Terceira do Carmo.
Cachoeira is known for sugar cane, tobacco, cassavas, plantations and for The Boa Morte, or Good Death Festival, a celebration based on Brazilian faith that celebrates the end of slavery in Brazil and also pays homage to the Virgin Mary. The festival, held in August annually, is helmed by women over the age of 50 who are part of the Sisterhood of the Good Death, a charitable organization that began in Salvador at the turn of the 19th century, but moved to Cachoeira. The founding members were freed, black female slaves.
Back in the day the sisterhood, a organization totally controlled by mature women in a secret society, raised funds to purchase the freedom of slaves.
The Sisterhood’s objective was to end slavery and the oppression for their people. The Sisterhood continues to wield a great deal of influence in the area.
SANTA CRUZ restaurant, is nestled in the hills of Cachoeira. Actually a home, the food, which includes great steak, fish and chicken, is some good ‘ol home cookin’.


This is just a small offering of what Bahia, Pelourinho and Cachoeira have to offer. There is, oh, so much more. The country is teeming with highlights and infinite hidden cultural nuggets just waiting to be uncovered
So this is Bahia! 
Oh, My!
American travelers rejoice! Brazil as of this writing, is a fabulous economical meeting or vacation spot because the exchange rate hugely favors the dollar.   
***American Airlines also has flights from Miami to Belo Horizonte three times a week.