On Friday, February 18, Minister of Tourism and International Transport and Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Senator, Lisa Cummins, welcomed a delegation from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), headed by Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Minister of Tourism and Chairman of the Saudi Fund for Development, for a series of bilateral discussions centered around tourism development in Barbados.
The working visit of the KSA delegation comprising members of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Saudi Fund for Development, follows initial discussions between Al-Khateeb and Senator Cummins last June at the 66th Meeting of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Regional Commission for the Americas.
Preliminary talks centered around the establishment of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Tourism Cooperation, and under Senator Cummins’ International Transport portfolio, the accompanying development of an Air Services Agreement with a focus on Saudia, the flag carrier airline of Saudi Arabia.
Senator Cummins disclosed that “Talks have begun between the two countries and pending approval from the respective governments, we hope to be able to open airlift opportunities between the two nations and by extension the Middle East.”
A tourism focus on the Middle East builds on the Government of Barbados’ recent appointment of its first ambassador in neighbouring United Arab Emirates in 2021, Gabriel Abed, as the country established its intention to strengthen relations with the burgeoning region.
Noting Saudi Arabians’ high propensity to travel and spend, Al-Khateeb pointed out that last year their region amassed over 60 million domestic visits and spent more than $20 billion. “We are keen to send more Saudis to visit your country and explore how beautiful it is. We’d be more than happy to promote travel to beautiful Barbados in Saudi Arabia and encourage them to explore this beautiful country.”
While here, the delegation will tour Barbados’ luxury and flagship tourism product, and meet with local private sector developers and investment entities, as KSA has been remarkably investing in sustainable and resilient infrastructure development, an area of common interest between the two nations.
Noting that tourism extends to many facets of the economy, and to ensure a sustainable and inclusive development plan, the delegation had the opportunity to meet with supporting members of the Cabinet of Barbados.
Discussions at Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on Friday led by Senator Cummins also included Kerrie Symmonds, Senior Minister for the Productive Sectors and Minister of Energy, Business Development and International Business; William Duguid, Senior Minister for Infrastructural Projects; Ryan Straughn, Minister in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs; and Senator Dr Shantal Munro-Knight, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Critical avenues such as the greater use of renewable energy; advanced infrastructure development; and the overall integration of sustainability into Barbados’ tourism development planning, were top of the agenda in the comprehensive discussions.
Following the successful visit, the Government of Barbados will outline its priority projects, which a dedicated team assembled by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will study, and together the two nations will determine the way forward.
Beyond physical development and investment, Barbados sees a MOU with KSA as a prime opportunity for the development of joint tourism job creation and joint investment in tourism education training.
Al-Khateeb congratulated Barbados on its impressive tourism and hospitality sector. “We were always impressed by Barbados… [it] is successful in providing state-of-the-art and world-class services for people from all around the world visiting this great country, especially the US, Canada, and the U.K. as the main source markets. You have quality services. You have amazing people; very welcoming,” he stated.
Tabling opportunities for collaboration, Senator Cummins stated that “Barbados has considerable experience refining and perfecting our tourism and service industries while maintaining our unique qualities. We see this wealth of knowledge as an invaluable resource for KSA as they build out their tourism sector.”
Al-Khateeb affirmed Senator Cummins’ position, adding that “We will be more than happy to be your partner. We will learn from each other.” (BTMI)