Mountains as far as you can see, untouched nature, and Haiti's limited infrastructure? Perfect!.. for the world adventurers seeking breathtaking beauty at the top of the cliff.
For the first time in history, MTB Ayiti is challenging professional and amateur bikers from all over the world to participate in Haiti Ascent Mountain Bike Stage Race, an "insanely challenging race" to take place January 30 - February 2, 2013, in Haitian mountains.
The person who came up with the idea to develop adventure sports to Haiti is Philip Kiracofe, an adventure traveler and entrepreneur based in New York. Philip, who calls himself "Chief Adventurist", first came to Haiti in 2010 with a non-profit organization to contribute to the earthquake relief efforts.
He strongly felt that aside from its reputation, Haiti is a gem and well-kept secret, "the last unexplored place in the Western Hemisphere" as he puts it, which may be particularly appealing to one type of travelers – the adventurers.
"It's a very rugged, mountainous, and interesting place from a terrain perspective. There's a ton of stuff to explore and see and to experience, and nobody goes there because most people just don't know,“ says Philip.
He envisioned bringing people to Haiti to explore its rustic environment as a great opportunity to develop adventure tourism here, and as a result founded MTB Ayiti.
For its very first annual race - Haiti Ascent Mountain Bike Stage Race, MTB Ayiti targets open-minded, adrenaline-thirsty adventurers who want to be the first to explore an unknown terrain. They usually seek rural areas and remote parts of the country with minimal infrastructure. Haiti could be their paradise.
"It is going to blow up people's mind every single day”
Haiti Ascent Mountain Bike Stage Race is a two-day stage race wrapped in a five day cultural emersion experience. The race will challenge amateur and professional bikers to cross the Haitian mountains on almost untravelled trails from Port-au-Prince to Jacmel, and to arrive just in time for the famous Haitian carnival.
The organizers will work closely with the local artists. Each night there will be presentations, as well as entertainers, dancers, musicians, etc, that would come to the athlete village and perform.
“It allows us to show off all the beautiful, amazing, wonderful cultural elements that never ever get exposed because the predominant story coming out of Haiti continues to be the disaster,” says Philip.
Adventure Tourism in Haiti
Philip sees several advantages to developing adventure tourism in Haiti.
First, Haiti doesn't need to invest in infrastructure immediately in order to attract adventure travelers. Second, the fact that these type of tourists prefer to visit mostly the countryside areas enables the economic impact to be spread out around the country. Lastly, these travelers are involved in low impact activities in terms of pollution.
“When people ride their bikes, run the trails, go hiking, tracking, or climbing, they are not polluting. They are not running fuel all over the place. They are not consuming tons of resources. They are just out there as explorers,“ says Philip.
He also sees it as a way to promote Haiti as a destination spot through the pictures, videos, and stories that adventurers would share with people who have never thought of Haiti as a travel destination.
The final piece that still needs to be put in place for adventure tourism development in Haiti is an ecosystem that would support it: mapping tools, lodges, as well as qualified mechanics and guides.
The Haiti Ascent Mountain Bike Stage Race is part of a series of Haiti Adventure Races, which will include an ultra-marathon, triathlon, and other sporting events meant to establish Haiti as a world-class destination for adventure travelers.
"It is going to blow people's minds every single day," says Chief Adventurist, Philip Kiracofe