Barbados and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be seeking to build stronger ties, especially in the area of tourism.
Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Senator Lisa Cummins, highlighted the way forward for relations between the two countries, during a press briefing today, before the departure of Minister of Tourism and Chairman of the Saudi Fund for Development, Ahmed Aqeel Al-Khateeb.
Minister Cummins revealed that preliminary discussions had taken place with Minister Al-Khateeb last June in Jamaica, at the 66th Meeting of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Regional Commission for the Americas, and an invitation was extended to visit Barbados to have a series of bilateral discussions.
“I think one of the things we are very clear on in the Government is that we have to forge new friendships and new partnerships…. But equally, we also intend to forge new relationships with new partners in non-traditional markets, and Saudi Arabia has demonstrated itself to me to be committed to forging that relationship.
“And, I was happy to welcome our Minister from Saudi Arabia here over the last few days to share with him why Barbados is that strategic new partner for Saudi Arabia, connecting the Gulf states here and in the Caribbean, and we’re committed to being able to develop that by way of operational components like air services agreements and a memorandum of cooperation,” Minister Cummins shared.
She also noted that there were discussions about investment, in terms of the expansion of hotel rooms, stock and real estate, which would allow Barbados to further position itself on the high end of the tourism market.
Minister Al-Khateeb, speaking at the end of his four-day visit to the island, stated that the “visit will result in further developing the relationship” between Saudi Arabia and Barbados.
“We discussed all the areas of cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Barbados, especially the areas related to tourism, and we will build the bridges between the two countries to work together and to share opportunities, especially investments and tourism,” he shared.
In addition to the bilateral talks, Minister Al-Khateeb and his delegation had the opportunity to tour the island, about which he said: “I feel at home. I was welcomed by everyone. I enjoyed exploring Barbados within the last three days. I was amazed by the infrastructure and everything was extremely positive.
“I believe Barbados has everything to become one of the best destinations globally that offer the sun and sea. You have the pinnacle hotels, the connectivity with the main hubs and the people, the great delicious food [and] great entertainment. I have no doubt that Barbados will be among the top destinations that offer the best value for the travellers seeking sun and sea and the best experience.”
He thanked the Government for welcoming him and his delegation and extended greetings to the Muslim community here in Barbados. “I wish them all the best and I hope to see them in the Holy City of Mecca very soon,” he added.
According to both Ministers, an announcement will be made “very soon” on the signing of the MOU and possibly an Air Service Agreement as well.