Royal Caribbean Provides Tourists, Relief To Haiti
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Now let's talk about doing business near the edge of a disaster zone. Even as Haiti is recovering from an earthquake, cruise ships have resumed docking at a resort on the country's north coast. That's an area that was unaffected. Tourists stop there for the day to relax on the beach or go jet skiing.
The cruise line Royal Caribbean International owns this resort, and the company's CEO, Adam Goldstein, joined us to talk about his operations there.
Some people may be surprised to hear that youre still taking tourists to Haiti, given the conditions down there. Why?
Mr. ADAM GOLDSTEIN (CEO, Royal Caribbean International): We actually felt it was a pretty easy decision once we realized that the physical site at our property at Labadee was unaffected by the earthquake, and second, after the Haitian government made it clear that they wanted to continue to have our ships visit, both for the economic benefit that they normally bring, as well as the humanitarian aspect of delivering relief supplies. It was a no-brainer.
INSKEEP: Relief supplies - what are you doing?
Mr. GOLDSTEIN: We're unloading about 40 to 60 pallets' worth of materials with each ship call. Navigator of the Seas is there today. That's the second one that's been at Labadee since the earthquake. We're probably looking at about three calls per week - a lot of water, canned goods, and then shelter-type relief supplies to the extent that they're made available to us.
INSKEEP: And what do people do when they go ashore at Labadee?
Mr. GOLDSTEIN: They have fun and they enjoy themselves, and I think this is what you were alluding to at the beginning, because certainly some people are bothered by the incongruity of that. But the Haitian government understands that that is our business. And its through that business, of our guests enjoying themselves on the property, that we are able to offer help. And the first call of each of the ships going back right now, we're donating all of the revenue from the normal - sort of aqua park, jet ski-type activities to the relief effort.
INSKEEP: When people come down to Labadee, do they spend the night on the cruise ship, like its their hotel?
Mr. GOLDSTEIN: It's only a day call, in all cases.
INSKEEP: And the activities ashore, you said something about aqua sports. What else?
Mr. GOLDSTEIN: Well, we've just invested $50 million into the property. I think Royal Caribbean is Haiti's largest foreign direct investor in any industry. We actually have a pier there now. We also have put in some fairly significant attractions, like a long zip line over the water and an alpine-style coaster on the hill, as well as cabanas and restaurants. So its a very full day, and now our guests understand in coming there that they are approximate to the affected area. And I think we'll see quite a bit of generosity on their part as well.
INSKEEP: This is not intended as a disrespectful remark about that $50 million investment, but if that is really the largest foreign direct investment in all of Haiti, $50 million in recreational facilities, that's a sad comment on the state of their economy, I think.
Mr. GOLDSTEIN: Well, as you know, there's a very long history of deficiency and frustration that many people around the world have worked with the Haitian government to rectify, without a lot to show for it. And although this is a total disaster, the likes of which no one had imagined, there are people up to and including President Clinton, with whom I met, who feel that out of this tragedy, maybe some progress can be made that has been elusive in the past.
I think there was a sense prior to the earthquake that maybe there really were more opportunities than in the past to get Haiti moving forward economically. Now its been hit by this tragedy. But maybe out of this tragedy, better things can come.
INSKEEP: Like what?
Mr. GOLDSTEIN: Well, a more comprehensive global effort to not only help with the rescue and the immediate recovery - which is, of course, is what's going on right now - but a true long-term reconstruction.
INSKEEP: Can you still envision increasing your company's investment in Haiti -opening another resort, say?
Mr. GOLDSTEIN: Well, I'll tell you the kind of thing that wed really like to do, and the Haitian government is very well aware of this. The Citadel is a fortress on the top of a hill near Cap Haitien. In my opinion, it could be the greatest single attraction in the entire Caribbean area. Nobody visits it. Why? Because the land and road infrastructure and the security situation has never existed there. Well, I think as a part of the reconstruction effort we're talking about here, stuff like that needs to happen.
Royal Caribbean wants to be involved. Maybe the type of relief effort we have in mind would do road construction and road maintenance that would sustain over time. And it would be a great attraction, as it should be. I just used that as one example. There clearly are opportunities. There's been some talk about Jacmel, which is a very nice city to the south of Port-au-Prince on the south coast, which was equally devastated by the earthquake, but it hasnt gotten hardly any publicity at all. That was typically where the Haitian government was asking us and others if we'd be interested to start a second cruise port. If Jacmel was to be reconstructed, more or less, from the ground up, that's something that could be considered as well.
INSKEEP: Adam Goldstein of Royal Caribbean, thanks very much for your time.
Mr. GOLDSTEIN: Thank you very much, and we appreciate everybody's help.