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Best Western is the first of several U.S. and international brands building in Haiti and preparing the island for a tourism growth that the country would like to see take the place of aid workers and diplomats.

The first U.S. brand — and Haiti’s second luxury hotel to open in three months — will welcome its first guests Thursday.

Designed for the business traveler, the Best Western Premier, a 106-room seven-story hotel in tony Petionville is finally making its debut. A soft-opening is planned for April 4, but guests will get their first glimpse before then.

“It feels amazing,” said Haiti-born Chris Handal, who had planned the hotel before the country’s monstrous Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake. “It’s really gorgeous.”

To give the hotel its own “Haitian flavor within the Best Western standard,” it will feature the work of Haitian artisans, including local artwork. This is in tribute, Handal said, to sister-in-law Paola Handal, who died in the quake.

Room rates range from $160 to $275 per room per night, plus tax, and government rates are available, said Dallas-based Aimbridge Hospitality, which operates the Best Western brand.

The Best Western Premier is located in Petionville and within walking distance of two other luxury brands. The 128-room Royal Oasis, operated by Spanish firm Occidental Hotel & Resorts, opened in December as Haiti’s first internationally branded upscale hotel. Next door, a new El Rancho, operated by the Spanish hotel chain NH, also will open soon.

U.S. brands Marriott and Comfort Suites are also expected to open soon in Haiti, which is expected to inaugurate 1,200 additional hotel rooms this year at a cost of $161 million, according to the tourism ministry.

“We are very excited and privileged to open the newest full service hotel on the beautiful island of Haiti,” said Rich Cortese, senior vice president of Caribbean operations and development for Dallas-based Aimbridge Hospitality, which operates the Best Western.

The company has hired 95 employees, the majority of them local residents, along with a seasoned management staff.

In addition to the local artwork, the Best Western boasts executive suites, 42-inch flat screen TVs, wireless internet access, a French-inspired restaurant, whisky bar and full-service spa.

(c)2013 The Miami Herald. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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Tags: haiti

Photo credit: A rendering of the rooms available at the Best Western Premier in Petionville, Haiti. Expedia

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