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Asif Iqbal
Qatar can be a top tourist destination in the region as it has all the attributes to draw tourists from all over the world, Ecuador's Ambassador to Qatar HE Ivonne A-Baki has said.
For this to happen, she added, more aggressive efforts are required to enhance Qatar's international connectivity.
"Qatar has one of the best infrastructure and technology that can be tapped to boost tourism, but more needs to be done to encourage visitors from far-off places," the South American diplomat told Qatar Tribune.
According to A-Baki, Qatar has the infrastructure and technology that it can exploit to attract tourists. She said if Qatar Airways operated direct flights to Ecuador, it would find a lot of tourists from both the countries willing to travel. It will be a win-win situation for the two countries, she added.
"At present, Qatar Airways is operating cargo flights to Quito, bringing over 1 million roses twice a week. We need to have civilian flights between the two countries so that there will be tourists flown from both sides," the ambassador said.
A-Baki said she has already spoken to Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar al Baker on introducing passenger flights to Quito.
"He (Baker) was optimistic about the proposal but also said that Qatar Airways already has an agreement with LATAM (Airlines Group) for flights to Ecuador. We will continue to push for direct flights between the two countries."
As Ecuador is centrally located, a direct flight to the country from Qatar would serve Qatar Airways well by bringing in passengers from adjoining countries in South America.
On bilateral trade between Ecuador and Qatar, the envoy said there was room for improvement.
"The blockade against Qatar is an opportunity for us to work on our trade. With Hamad Port now being operational, big vessels can directly come to Qatar from Ecuador with food stuff and other items."
Ecuador is the largest producer of bananas and Qatar can import directly from the country instead of going to Africa or the Philippines, A-Baki said.
"Likewise, we have good production of other fruits, flowers and vegetables that can be exported to Qatar," the envoy added.
There are several areas where the two countries can share their expertise and compliment each other well, she said, adding:"We have the expertise in shrimp farming and hydroelectricity, which we can share with Qatar while Doha has its technology in the oil and gas sector that can help us with our refinery requirements.
"We are an oil-producing country but we don't have our own refinery facilities. We need the technology and investment in this area as well as other sectors such as mining, infrastructure and tourism."
A-Baki said she has met with several ministers and officials from the Qatar Investment Authority and the Qatar Chamber to discuss investments.
At present, the foreign direct investment (FDI) to Equador is about $2 billion but the government is taking all necessary steps to encourage more investments to the country, she added.
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