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Houston in Spotlight for Middle East
Trade Mission


December 3, 2012

© Houston Airport System
Tim Clark, President of the Emirates Group, Houston Mayor Annise Parker, His Excellency Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman & CEO of the Emirates Group and Houston Aviation Director Mario C. Diaz.

Houston aviation director Mario C. Diaz was recently a part of a 38-member delegation, led by Houston Mayor Annise Parker, that traveled to the Middle East in an effort to expand business cooperation between the two regions. 

The eight day trip began on November 8, 2012 and focused on highlighting the key parallels between the participants’ key economic sectors.

“Houston’s strength as an energy capital will help businesses looking for new ventures or strategic links in this part of the world and, inversely, place Houston at the forefront when Middle Eastern businesses contemplate future international business models,” Mayor Parker said of her team’s efforts.

Members of the Houston delegation visited with dignitaries and business leaders in the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.; Doha, Qatar and Dammam, Saudi Arabia.

All four cities are regional leaders in countries long known to the rest of the world for their bountiful oil and gas resources.

As in Houston, while energy is still king, the economies of these countries are diversifying into value-added sectors like healthcare, logistics/transportation, education and engineering.

Throughout the trade mission, the topics of aviation and expanded flight coverage continued to arise as key components in the efforts to maximize the potential partnership opportunities that exist between Houston and the Middle East.

Diaz was repeatedly recognized by Middle Eastern leaders for the efficiency displayed at Houston’s airports during key events, such as the Offshore Technology Conference.

“Our people have been treated great on all of their visits to Houston,” said His Excellency Abdulla Nasser Al Suwaidi, CEO from Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. “Additionally, the direct flights really help us communicate better with Houston in general.”

Diaz was also recognized for his efforts in improving the entry process through Customs and Border Protection. This effort involves programs such as the highly successful Global Entry Program and the detailed monitoring of wait times for passengers navigating the Federal Inspection Services (FIS) facility.

“International passengers at George Bush Intercontinental Airport already enjoy one of the most efficient processing centers anywhere in the country,” Diaz says. “But we are firmly committed to making those wait times even shorter in the future.”

The delegation also included representatives from the Greater Houston Partnership and the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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