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MONTROUIS, Haiti (AP) â¿¿ The only leisure tourist among the U.N. peacekeepers, aid workers, embassy personnel and missionaries on this beach north of the Haitian capital must have been Anne Fournier.
She didn't live or work in Haiti or pretend to help. Fournier was here for fun, traveling to Haiti for the first time with her Port-au-Prince-born husband of almost two years. The couple visited a few of his relatives but otherwise has spent their 10-day vacation seeing the historic town of Jacmel in the south, wading in a nearby waterfall and relaxing on the beach.
"You can tell that the tourism isn't very developed yet, and that's the big charm of it," Fournier, 26, of Montreal, Canada, as she sipped juice from a cut-open coconut. "Everything is an adventure here."
Haitian President Michel Martelly and his administration are to trying to woo Fournier and others like her as they aim high to revive the country's long stagnant tourism industry with investments totaling more than $160 million.
While many in Haiti welcome anything that can create jobs, some critics are questioning the government's priority of trying to attract high-end tourists at a time when the country faces so many other problems, such as high unemployment, a deadly cholera outbreak and lack of housing for people displaced by the earthquake more than three years ago.
"It's good that the government is thinking about tourism but I think it's thinking about it in a very narrow way," said Robert Maguire, a longtime Haiti scholar at George Washington University. "It's an exclusive, high-end model that benefits a small group of the elite."
Haiti's tourism ministry had about $2 million in its budget under the previous administration, and received another $1 million from a Venezuelan oil fund in the aftermath of a destructive storm season, according to the former tourism minister. Today, the department has a budget that's $4.7 million, plus $27 million from Venezuela's PetroCaribe fund.