MIDDLE EAST. In a development with profoundly positive implications for the region’s travel and travel retail sectors, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have agreed to restore full ties with Qatar.
On Monday, Saudi Arabia announced the reopening of its land border with Qatar after a three and a half year dispute. The bitter row saw a land, sea and air blockade by the four countries against their regional neighbour.
Among other allegations, the Doha government had been accused of supporting terrorist groups and being too close to Iran, claims that Qatar vehemently denied.
Gulf leaders signed a “solidarity and stability” agreement in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf Cooperation Council annual summit on Tuesday.
The blockade had a particularly severe impact on Qatar Airways as its neighbours closed their airspace to Qatar (Bahrain and the UAE also closed their maritime borders to ships carrying the Qatari flag). However, the airline continued to prosper during the crisis, extending its global route network and during the height of the pandemic flying more miles than any other international carrier.
More details to follow soon on a story that will also have positive repercussions for travel retail in each of the countries. Duty free sales were hard hit by the blockade, with Qatar Duty Free and Dubai Duty Free particularly affected.