MINISTER of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell.


NEGOTIATIONS with Middle Eastern countries to support tourism to The Bahamas have been going well, with recent agreement signings with Dubai and Saudi Arabia concluded, said Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell yesterday.

During a Zoom press briefing, Mr Mitchell gave an update on agreements made with the United Arab Emirates, and other countries in the Middle East.

Mr Mitchell said despite reluctance from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in creating a “hub” for international travellers at The Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA), the recently renewed agreement with Dubai to encourage more tourism to The Bahamas goes beyond the previous agreement.

“We have met with both Qatar Airways and with Emirates Airlines. We were trying to encourage them to create a hub at our international airport, The Lynden Pindling International Airport. But one of the things that they indicated was that the numbers of potential travellers as they then stood, did not sufficiently attract the idea of a hub.

“But they committed through their travel agencies which are connected to the airlines to support promoting tourism to The Bahamas, so that this would help over the long term to drive up the numbers.

“We signed one agreement right after the exposition in Dubai last year and that agreement has been renewed and this time they’ve gone farther, because it does not only involve their own travel agency, but other airlines and other nationalities to promote travel to The Bahamas and it is signed one year at a time.”

Mr Mitchell said despite the ongoing progress with the Middle Eastern counties, he hopes for more in the future.

“We were able to conclude arrangements with Qatar and The Emirates and we were able to conclude a Visa Abolition Agreement in 2017. (But) there remains to be executed a double taxation agreement and investment agreement. Those are being negotiated at the moment both with Qatar and with the United Arab Emirates,” Mr Mitchell said.

On the recent signing of an agreement for diplomatic relations between The Bahamas and Saudi Arabia, Mr Mitchell said: “The Saudis have been to The Bahamas, because they are seeking to have our support at the Bureau of International Expositions in Paris, when the vote takes place in November, so that the world’s fair can take place in Saudi Arabia in 2030.”

Last month, Tribune Business reported that Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper was targeting Saudi Arabia as a key source of investment capital for The Bahamas with the government seeking to “match” the $6bn worth of projects already approved during its second year.

Chester Cooper, in a video recorded following his trip to the oil-rich Middle Eastern kingdom and World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) global summit, said he and other officials had met with private investors, including a hospital and healthcare developer as part of the Davis administration’s drive to attract increased foreign direct investment (FDI).

Pointing to The Bahamas’ proximity to the US, present air connectivity and existing US pre-clearance and pre-check facilities, Mr Cooper said he hoped “that in the medium-term” direct airlift will be established between this nation and Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, last week, Mr Cooper lodged a formal complaint to the US Department of Transportation over “discrimination” over the collection of fees to use the Bahamian airspace, in response to some US airlines threatening to stop flights to The Bahamas.

In a statement, he said: “We intend to formally respond to the complaint and will not litigate the matter in the press. We value the relationships we have built with our tourism partners and always operate with a view to maintaining them and promoting a balanced consultative process.

“We assure the Bahamian people that we will always defend our sovereign right to manage and charge for the use of our airspace; having regard to the internationally held principles of fairness, transparency and cost-relatedness.”


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