MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It was wheels down at Miami International Airport for South Florida’s first non-stop service to Middle East outside of Israel.

Qatar Airways received the traditional water cannon salute as it begins service between Doha and Miami.

“This is a region of the world that has been untapped for non-stop service from Florida,” said MIA Deputy Director Ken Pyatt, “and we’ve opened that door.”

That flight and the people it brings to South Florida is expected to add millions of dollars to our economy. It will draw people from the affluent parts of the Middle East, India, China and some of Australia through the hub in Doha and then on to Miami.

The big prizes there are visitors from the world’s most populous countries; India and China.

“In China you have a great emerging middle class, there are a million millionaires in China today,” said William Talbert from the Greater Miami Visitor and Convention Bureau. “There are 300 million members of the middle class in India today. They’re all ready to travel, speaking English, they’re ready to go.”

Talbert is banking on South Florida’s beaches, attractions and shopping as big draws for tourists known as big spenders.

“International visitors stay longer,” noted Talbert. “They spend more, they may go other places here but no other city in the United States can say what Miami can say, more international visitors than domestic visitors.”

Another expected draw is the access MIA offers to Latin America.

“We have more flights to Latin America than any other city,” said Pyatt, “So it’s just a natural synergy to have Qatar Airways come here and connect beyond.”

Pyatt said this latest new service is part of a bigger plan.

“We envision the opportunity to fly non-stop to the Far East, perhaps Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing, Korea. So this is just part of our overall global strategy,” said Pyatt.

The Qatar flight between MIA and Doha will operate 4 days a week for now. If there’s enough traffic, it will become daily.



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