Hotel Haiti: Port-au-Prince lodge cements self as community staple

General manager of Le Plaza Hotel, Marc Pierre-Louis. He manages the hotel, which has been in his family for 60 years.
Margot Jordan

It’s beyond a hotel!

In the heart of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince is Le Plaza Hotel — a historic lodge growing in popularity, and situated near the city’s Champs De Mars public square. It is one of the oldest hotels in the area, and has stood through many of the country’s political and infrastructural changes. But beyond that, the 60-year-old hotel has cemented itself as a community-oriented locale because the family-run and owned business has taken on a role bigger than just a destination of choice for tourists and visitors, said its general manager.

“We’re an island on an island, and we’re also an institution because we’ve been here for a very long time and we know our community, and we do a lot more in terms of being a place to stay,” said Marc Pierre-Louis. “Port-au-Prince is a city that is densely packed, we’re sort of an oasis and a relief of that.”

His grandmother founded and managed the hotel in 1955, which his father ran afterwards. And now two-years into succeeding management from his older sister — Pierre-Louis is the current young and energetic manager of the 95-room hotel, running a full-time staff of more than 100 employees. One of his goals is ensuring he resumes his sister’s successful implementation of modern style of service that translates well across all cultures.

“Our customer service and management style is different from customer service that Haiti is usually accustomed to and I credit that to my sister,” he said. “We have much more inclusive style.”

He adds that the introduction of a more worldly and well-recognizable style of service appeals to tourists from all corners of the world, and despite running the risk of establishing a fairly new road map for his staff — it turned to be successful and showed a sure sign of continuing to put their staff first.

“At first we thought, ‘We can’t do that in Haiti,’ but it can and it worked,” said Pierre-Louis. “Haitians love to learn and apply what they learn, and we’ve seen how that comes back into the workplace, and that’s why we mostly invest in our staff.”

When a devastating earthquake hit the country in 2010, Le Plaza was one of the few buildings and businesses in the area that did not suffer any wrecks, according to Pierre-Louis. The luck of fortune allowed them to become the go-to and premier location for media outlets camped nearby in the aftermath.

“We were extremely lucky and had absolutely no damage — and we were one of the first hotels up and running through the whole thing,” he said.

Along with coming out scot free, none of the hotel’s 150 member staff was harmed, and it was business as usual the next day. In the days and weeks after the quake one of their main focuses was ensuring that not only did customers and employees continue to stay safe during aftershocks, but that some of their new neighbors — many of whom were homeless and setting up camps — were taken care of.

“Our immediate response was confirming that all of our staff was safe,” he said. “A lot of news agencies were also showing up and they also camped out here for a very long time, but we didn’t lose any inventory or anyone on staff, and everyday we would supply fresh water for the camps.” And while the effects of the disaster came with many challenges such as the shortage food and fuel, and power outages, Le Plaza managed to supply electricity through its generators, and provide multiple fixed meals for its guests everyday, said Pierre-Louis.

This preparedness is decades in the making, said Pierre-Louis. Le Plaza consistently adapts to its environment because the family has been witness to the state of the country over the years, and developed a plan that leaves it well-equipped.

“My grandmother and my dad saw a lot of these changes, and because we’ve seen our share as well — we’re set up for it,” said Pierre-Louis. “We have a redundant system where we have our own water and generators, and this is how we push through.”

Pierre Louis said as the manager of the hotel, he wants Le Plaza to be as much a vital part of its community, as it is an introductory place in Haiti.

“Our mission is basically to be the jumping point to discover Haiti and I hope people can discover who we aim to be because we’ve been doing 60 years of Haitian hospitality,” he said. “We’re always here to help people and we’ve been doing this for a long time.”

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected]local.com. Follow her on Twitter @AS1mon.
The 95-room hotel is one of Haiti’s oldest lodgings, and has been run by the Pierre-Louis family for six decades.
Vic Saint Lot

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