The Bahamas has committed to assisting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with the development of its tourism product, while Saudi Arabia has pledged to financially support The Bahamas’ Tourism Development Corporation (TDC) and the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC), Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation Chester Cooper explained following his meetings in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Cooper, who led a delegation to those countries last week, said both countries have found “significant ways” to create cooperation.
“Firstly, Saudi Arabia is new to tourism. They have only been in the tourism industry for four years,” said Cooper.
“We have found significant ways where we might assist them.
“Secondly, they are committed to assisting us in promoting The Bahamas in Saudi Arabia and they will be working along with our director, Anthony Stuart, who is based in London, to help us to develop our market in Saudi Arabia as well as in the Middle East territories.
“We are very excited that we have been able to share and get the interest in some of our specific programs, namely Bahama Host and the People-to-People program… they were extremely excited about this. Therefore, we expect there to be a two-way exchange in technical assistance.”
Cooper said given Saudi Arabia’s wealth, the delegation hoped to attract Saudi investment in The Bahamas and pitched projects such as public-private partnerships (PPP) in airports and hospitals.
He added that the country has a significant interest in infrastructure and renewable energy development for The Bahamas.
“These are areas that we will explore into the future,” said Cooper.
“They are very keen on coming to The Bahamas’ investment forum. We anticipate this is going to happen sometime towards the end of the summer. This is where business persons will come, there will be business-to-business exchange meetings and we will be able to explore some of these investment opportunities.”
Cooper added that he and his delegation met with representatives of Saudi Arabia’s tourism development corporation and have determined ways to promote The Bahamas in the country in an effort to increase airlift from that region.
He also explained that both countries are on the cusp of establishing diplomatic relations.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue the process that has already been started,” Cooper said.
“We look forward to the day when we will have visa-free travel from Saudi Arabia to The Bahamas.”
Both countries also discussed the possibility of a Bahamian sitting on the board of Saudi Arabia’s sustainability council, as both countries look to continue to develop sustainable tourism.
“Most importantly we will look to collaborate with them in international organizations like UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) to tell the story of small, vulnerable countries like The Bahamas,” said Cooper.
“This is an area we discussed with great passion. During the midst of COVID it was notable that small countries, dependent on tourism, received very little support from international organizations like UNWTO and the UN (United Nations) and we must determine how we get more support in the future, when we have incidences like that.”