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KINGSTON, Jamaica; June 25, 2021: Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett has announced that Jamaica and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have agreed to sign a document of intent, to aid in boosting air connectivity between the Middle East and the Caribbean.
The Minister made the announcement following a series of meetings with His Excellency Ahmed Al Khateeb, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism, who is currently in Jamaica for the 66th meeting of the UNWTO Regional Commission for the Americas. The meeting also included several regional Ministers of Tourism who joined the discussions virtually.
“We talked about air connectivity and how to link the Middle East, the Asian market, and the areas within that side of the world to join us through the mega airlines that are in those areas. Particularly the Etihad, the Emirates and Saudi airlines,” said Bartlett.
“The agreement that we have coming out of that is that Minister Al Khateeb will bring to the table, those major partners, while I will be responsible for coordinating with the countries that are cooperating with us in the multi-destination tourism framework, to enable a Hub and Spoke arrangement so that traffic can move from the Middle East and come into our area and have distribution from one country to the next,” he added.
He further explained that the multi-destination arrangement is critical to the development of tourism in the region as it is “a new formula within this area to drive connectivity across the globe, but more so to broaden the market to create the critical mass that is needed to attract larger airlines and the big tour operators to become interested in us and have a stronger movement of tourism within our area.”
Bartlett noted that this arrangement will be a game-changer for the Caribbean as it will allow new markets to have direct connectivity to the region, thus increasing earnings, especially for small and medium tourism enterprises.
“For us this is a game-changer in the making, because small countries like Jamaica will never have the capacity to have large airlines like Qatar and Emirates coming to us from direct flights. However, we can benefit from these airlines coming into the Caribbean space – landing here in Jamaica but having distribution to other countries in the Caribbean,” he explained.
Dialogue about this arrangement is expected to continue over the next few days, with the hopes of a memorandum of understanding being finalised.
Minister Al Khateeb, expressed gratitude for being invited to Jamaica to participate in discussions that will aid in strengthening connectivity between the Middle East and the Caribbean.
“We discussed with my colleagues, very critical topics and we are in support of creating bridges between the Middle East and the Caribbean. I thank Minister Bartlett for this opportunity and look forward to expanding the corporation for expanding the Middle East and the Caribbean,” said Al Khateeb.
During the meeting, they also discussed other areas of possible collaboration, including human capital development, community tourism and building resilience within the region.
“One of the key areas that we discussed was the development of resilience and crisis management, as well as sustainability as critical pillars on which the recovery of tourism must be predicated. But more so, the importance of building capacity within countries that have tourism as the driver of their economies - countries that are weakly resourced and vulnerable to disruptions. We are going to see collaboration in the building out of the resilience centre here in Jamaica and the resilience centre that is in Saudi Arabia,” said Bartlett.
Minister Al Khateeb shared similar sentiments regarding the importance of building resilience and sustainability, to the future of the industry.
“We all know that tourism represents 10% of the global GDP before the crisis and 10% of global jobs. Unfortunately, the industry was hit hard by the pandemic, and we lost a lot in 2020 and now with the vaccine and the opening of many countries borders, we started the discussion about how the world will look in the future and started planning for post-COVID and learning from the challenges,” he said.
“So, sustainability is a very important topic. We want to create more resilience in the future and a more sustainable industry – one that respects the environment and culture,” added Al Khateeb.