RIYADH (Arabnews): Caribbean island nation Jamaica is expecting to receive at least 100,000 tourists from Saudi Arabia within the next three years, as both nations signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate in the field of tourism, said Jamaican Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Bartlett said the new tourism agreement would also elevate investment opportunities in Jamaica and the Kingdom.
“This MoU will seek to share best practices between the two countries. It will seek to help build human capital and create skill sets within new and exciting areas of tourism. We are moving to get the first 100,000 visitors in the next three years,” said Bartlett.
He added: “Here is a great opportunity for Jamaican and Caribbean products to find their way to Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabian products to come to us in the Caribbean.”
Read: Saudi Cabinet approves a tourism MoU with Jamaica
Improving investment climate
Bartlett further noted that Jamaica is all geared up for investments as the coronavirus pandemic did not adversely impact the country’s economic infrastructure.
“We want to indicate that the economic climate in Jamaica is conducive to your investment because COVID-19 did not ravage our economy,” added Bartlett.
According to the minister, Jamaica has already registered five consecutive quarters of economic growth since the pandemic.
Here is a great opportunity for Jamaican and Caribbean products to find their way to Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabian products to come to us in the Caribbean.
Edmund Bartlett, Jamaican tourism minister
The minister pointed out that the last quarter ended at 5.7 percent, and the island nation is projected to grow in the range of 6 percent by the end of the calendar year.
The other striking feature of the Caribbean island is that the trade unions are progressive and understand the balance between labor and capital, making the nation a perfect place to invest.
Gateway to the world
Bartlett added that the gateway airports are crucial in elevating tourism activities between Saudi Arabia and Jamaica.
“The critical part is the gateway, the Riyadh gateway or the Jeddah gateway. We should build air connectivity. We have to open new gateways,” he said.
The tourism minister believed that his country’s partnership with the Gulf Cooperation Council would open gateways to North Africa and Asia, particularly India and China, enabling access to the Caribbean and the Americas. Last year, Bartlett told Arab News that establishing air connectivity between the two countries was a priority.
Cruising through opportunities
The minister was particularly optimistic that the MoU could boost cruise tourism opportunities in the Kingdom when he revealed that the Caribbean held a whopping 23 million of the 28 million cruise trips worldwide.
“Cruise has been a strong feature of the Caribbean. We can train your cruise stakeholders to understand the nature of the business,” the minister added.
The partnership could facilitate memorable shore excursion experiences for visitors, besides sharing insights on configuring the port infrastructure and negotiating the best deals with cruise liners.
Saudi Arabia’s cruise tourism sector has been progressing steadily as the Kingdom diversifies its economy, which was dependent on oil for several decades, in line with Vision 2030.
Cruise Saudi is a project led by the Public Investment Fund which aims to establish a stable cruise industry within the Kingdom. Earlier in August, Cruise Saudi signed an MoU with Saudi Railways Co. to develop the Kingdom’s cruise sector.
Lars Clasen, the CEO of Cruise Saudi, said that the agreement aimed to build a meaningful partnership with SRC to promote cruise tourism as a new and promising sector that actively contributes to developing the country’s growing tourism industry.
Improving trade relations
The Jamaican minister added that the new tourism agreement would boost trade relations between Saudi Arabia and Jamaica.
Bartlett said, “Air connectivity will bring human cargo and agricultural produce from Jamaica such as fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition, we can get spices and other delightful products from Saudi Arabia coming into this area.”
He added that a tourism supplies logistics center in the Caribbean would provide an excellent opportunity for Saudi goods to find their way into hotels across the Americas.
Bartlett revealed that Jamaica has strongly rebounded after the pandemic, as the country’s tourism sector has already earned $3 billion this year.
“The earnings in tourism have increased by 20 percent over 2019 already. We have already earned $3 billion from the industry, and this is only the eighth month of the year,” he added.
Jamaica is highly dependent on tourism, as the sector contributes 10 percent to the country’s gross domestic product, Bartlett said.