MIAMI An Argentine energy and agribusiness entrepreneur on Monday announced plans with a Haiti-based business group to build a $33 million, 240-room business hotel in the earthquake-ravaged Haitian capital.
The project for Haiti's first airport hotel -- scheduled to break ground in Port-au-Prince by the end of the year and be completed in 18 months -- will be the first big new investment in the hospitality sector since the January 12 earthquake that killed up to 300,000 people in the poor Caribbean nation.
The project brings together Argentine businessman Rolando Gonzalez-Bunster, whose Basic Energy Ltd company is a major player in Dominican Republic's power sector, and the WIN Group, run by the Mevs family, which operates the biggest private cargo shipping terminal and industrial park in Haiti.
The Mevs family was contributing land near Port-au-Prince's Toussaint L'Ouverture international airport to the hotel partnership, Edmund Miller, a partner in the project, told Reuters.
The January quake destroyed or damaged several high-end hotels, and the project targets growing numbers of business executives and aid officials involved in Haiti's internationally-backed reconstruction.
"The reconstruction can't really begin until you have a place to stay for the people who are going to actually do it ... something right at the airport seems to make most sense," Miller said.
More than 1.3 million quake survivors still live in tent and tarpaulin cities crammed between rubble-strewn streets of the Haitian capital, and aid agencies have been struggling to provide them with more permanent shelters.
Aid workers fear another humanitarian catastrophe if a major hurricane strikes Haiti.
The planned seven-story hotel was being designed by Florida-based OBM International and would have conference facilities to accommodate up to 400 people.
Miller said the project leaders had been approached by private equity funds and would also look for financing from multilateral lenders like the World Bank's International Finance Corporation and the Inter-American Development Bank.
There were no immediate plans to ask a major hotel brand to run the hotel, but the project leaders did not rule out future discussions, Miller said.
Following the earthquake, foreign governments, multilateral bodies and nongovernmental groups from around the world in March pledged $9.9 billion for Haiti's post-quake reconstruction, $5.3 billion for the next two years alone.
(Reporting by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Vicki Allen)