Local 10 journeyed to Qatar to bring you the story about the impact to trade and tourism of a new nonstop Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Miami.
"It's a tremendous opportunity for a destination to have an inaugural flight from such an importation region of the world," said Bruce Orosz, incoming chair of the Greater Miami Visitors and Convention Bureau.
"When carriers like Qatar come to Miami they are bringing passenger traffic, but there is an expectation that there will be a robust cargo traffic both coming and going," said Miami-Dade County Aviation Director Emilio Gonzalez.
Orosz and Gonzalez visited Doha to meet with their Qatar counterparts and catch the inaugural flight to Miami. Also on that inaugural flight were travel writers and journalists who are based in the Middle East. They plan to spend at least a week in Miami.
Freelance Middle East writer Nicholas Chrisostomou said the perception of Miami has changed. It is now considered a business destination, not just a holiday destination.
"Obviously, it's needed because this flight is completely full," Chrisostomou said.
Joe Mortimer, senior editor for Destinations of the World, based in Dubai, told Local 10's Christina Vazquez he boarded the inaugural flight from Doha to Miami "to visit the city for the first time (and to) find out what it has to offer for the affluent ladies and gentlemen in the Middle East looking for new luxury travel experiences in this part of the world."
A SERIES OF FIRSTS
A Miami International Airport spokesperson said Qatar Airways is the first five-star airliner to fly into MIA and one of just seven five-star Skytrax-rated carriers in the world.
It is the first time MIA can connect travelers and cargo to a Gulf Arab state and the first direct service to the Middle East since El Al stopped flying out of Miami direct to Tel Aviv six years ago.
The new Doha-Miami service connects South Florida to Qatar Airways' extensive network into India, China, Africa and Europe. The benefit to Qatar Airways is MIA's connecting routes to South America and the Caribbean.
"It really says a lot about our community. We are growing up," said Gonzalez. "We are not a north-south community anymore. We are truly a global community."
MIDDLE EAST AVIATION
Qatar is working to put itself on the map as an international travel hub, business center and tourism destination. A pivotal part of that strategy is aviation.
The Middle East has recognized it is geographically poised to be the new crossroads of global travel with billions of people living one direct flight from the Middle East, to include a growing middle class in China and India.
Dubai is on the cusp of overtaking London’s Heathrow Airport as the busiest airport for international visitors. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Middle East airlines saw passenger demand growth of more than 18 percent in April -- that's more than twice that of any region in the world.
Qatar Airways, the state-owned flag carrier, is moving at a feverish pace to direct international tourism and cargo through its capital city of Doha, buying hundreds of planes and opening new destination routes worldwide.
Miami is Qatar's sixth destination in the United States; up next for the carrier is Dallas.