The announcement that the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority has signed an agreement with the Government of Guyana which will permit award winning Qatar Airways to operate any number of passenger and cargo flights between the two countries, is significant more than it first appears.
It will also allow the airline to open an operation base in Guyana and fly to any other country in the region and other regions as well. Clearly this ground breaking decision is driven by Guyana’s increasingly important position being poised to become a major player in the gas and oil industry.
The implications for the Caribbean go far beyond direct flights from the Middle East, giving the opportunity of opening up further investment possibilities by making access infinitely more feasible.
Currently the Sovereign Wealth Fund administered by the Qatar Investment Authority is the 10th largest in the world with a quoted total asset value of US$328 billion. Among its many substantial shareholding ownerships are Barclays Bank (12.7%), Volkswagen Group (17%), Harrods (100%) and is the single largest shareholding in British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, with 21.99% of its voting shares.
According to Forbes, Qatar is officially the richest country in the world, not bad for a nation with an estimated population of fewer than 2 million, perhaps, reinforcing the concept that, size really doesn’t matter.
In 2013, Qatar boasted the world’s highest GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per capita of US$105,000, twice that of the United Kingdom and United States, while their economy grew by 19%, the fastest rate in the world at that time.
The website, 2ndpassports.com, explains that a typical Quatari business person will log thousands of hours and millions of miles in air travel throughout their career and that a staggering 15 per cent of Qatar citizens are millionaires.
From a tourism perspective, Qatar owns or controls an enviable number of luxury hotels globally, including the Peninsula, Hotel Louvre, Concorde Lafayette and Le Grand in Paris, Hotel Martinez in Cannes, Palais de la Mediterranee in Nice, Four Seasons in Florence, Claridge’s, The Berkeley, Connaught, Savoy and Intercontinental Park Lane in London and New York’s Plaza Hotel.
Various Caribbean nations have made overtures to Qatar and other gulf states, sometimes linked with citizenship-by-investment schemes, to help drive upmarket hospitality projects.
Qatar Airlines operates a hub and spoke network linking over 172 international destinations with a fleet of more than 250 aircraft, making it one of the largest passenger operators, while the cargo arm of the airline is the world’s third largest freight carrier.
A direct flight from Doha to Georgetown is 7,235 miles or 11,643 kilometers (great circle), so with existing aircraft, a journey time of at least 15 hours. Could seamless links into these flights provide exciting further potential for our tourism industry, both in terms of increased investment and new markets for arrivals?
And just maybe, with a dramatically revised and viable business plan it could just provide LIAT with a lifeline and some hope.
I am sure our policymakers and planners are already looking into the possibilities.