Saudi Arabia and the Caribbean destination of Jamaica are moving toward the signing a memorandum of understanding to bring the two closer together in the tourism sector.
The two countries initiated discussions in 2021, seeking ways to collaborate on rebuilding tourism as the world recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Talks were held during a visit of Jamaica minister of tourism, Edmund Bartlett, to Saudi Arabia during the Future Investment Initiative event in Riyadh.
Speaking during the visit, Bartlett explained: “Jamaica is a highly tourism-dependent region; we are part of the Caribbean, which is part of the most tourism-dependant region on earth.
“Most of the countries in the region have dependency on tourism of up to 95 per cent in terms of GDP.
“In the case of Jamaica, our direct tourism impact is around ten per of GDP, but this rises to 35 per cent if we include the indirect impacts; around 170,000 people, from a working population of 1.2 million, are employed directly by tourism.
“The foreign exchange it generates stood at US$3.7 billion annually, before Covid-19, which means it is a little over 54 per cent of all the foreign exchange Jamaica earns.
“It is a vital part of the economy.”
Saudi Arabia has been growing its presence in the tourism sector in recent years, looking for investment opportunities both domestically and internationally.
Minister Bartlett is scheduled to meet Ahmed Al-Khateeb, minister of tourism for Saudi Arabia, later today to finalise the deal.
Bartlett confirmed an air link between the two countries is the top priority for the memorandum.
Any route, likely to be operated by Saudi flag-carrier Saudia, would allow visitors from the Middle East to visit the Caribbean destination without the need to pass through the United States, reducing bureaucratic hurdles.
Jamaica signed a similar partnership with Spain last month – find out more here.