Saudia Airlines planning Caribbean expansion by summer 2022 says Bartlett
Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett (right) and Captain IbrahimKoshy, CEO of Saudia Airlines, shake hands to seal the deal.Looking on is Senator Aubyn Hill, minister without portfolio in theMinistry of Economic Growth and Job Creation. The occasion wasa meeting to discuss plans for Saudia Airlines to expand flightsto Jamaica by summer 2022. Ministers Bartlett and Hill were inRiyadh, Saudi Arabia, to explore investment opportunities and boosttourism travel to Jamaica.

Less than six months after Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett announced that Jamaica and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had agreed to sign a document of intent to aid in boosting air connectivity between the Middle East and the Caribbean there are signals that this could become a reality next year.

Bartlett over the weekend announced that plans are in train to boost air connectivity between the Middle East and the Caribbean, with Saudia Airlines set to expand flights to Jamaica by summer 2022.

The announcement followed Bartlett's recent travel to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to explore investment opportunities and boost tourism travel to Jamaica.

“The last two weeks have been very eventful for us in trying to carve out the new markets in the Middle East that will give us the connectivity to Africa, Asia, and Asia Minor. We have had discussions in Dubai and in Riyadh. The discussions with Saudia Airlines are well advanced and we've had an understanding that there is an ambition for engagement by summer of 2022,” said Bartlett.

“The details of that arrangement are being worked out with Saudia and another carrier that will make the possibility for connectivity easier and more seamless in the short run. So we are very excited about seeing the Middle Eastern gateway opening to Jamaica,” added Bartlett.

The tourism minister noted that the broader strategy is to have Jamaica become the hub for connectivity from the Middle East through to the Caribbean, Central America, South America, and areas of North America.

This should position Jamaica as being central to air connectivity between the East and West.

“We are very confident that we will see results from this in short order as both airlines that we have spoken to have shown a strong appetite for the Caribbean and, more so, Latin America,” said Bartlett.

Saudia, formerly known as Saudi Arabian Airlines, is the flag carrier of Saudi Arabia. It is the third largest in the Middle East in terms of revenue, behind Emirates and Qatar Airways. It operates domestic and international flights to over 85 destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America.

Following a series of meetings with Ahmed Al Khateeb, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's minister of tourism, who visited Jamaica for the 66th meeting of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Regional Commission for the Americas, Bartlett said the two had talked about air connectivity and how to link the Middle East, the Asian market, and the areas within that side of the world with the Caribbean through the mega airlines.

“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,” said Bartlett then.

He 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”.

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