Saudi aviation sector enters a new era
As the world emerges from the shadows of the COVID-19 pandemic, Saudi Arabia has started reaping the fruit of its efforts to wean its economy off of oil by increasing its focus on its travel and tourism sector.
The Kingdom’s aviation sector is witnessing rapid growth which many analysts say is not just due to large investments in airlines but a result of the ongoing socio-economic transformation process that began with the launch of Vision 2030 in 2016.
One of the several measures taken to boost the sector includes the launch of an e-visa service in 2019 ensuring easy access to millions of potential tourists eager to explore the art, culture, cuisine, archeological wonders, and natural beauty of the Arabian Peninsula.
“2023 is becoming a year in which Saudi aviation (industry) has moved beyond recovery (mode) and (entered) into an era of unprecedented milestones and achievements,” Mohammed Alkhuraisi, executive vice president of strategy and business intelligence at the General Authority of Civil Aviation, told Arab News.
“In the first half of 2023, Saudi Arabia’s air traffic witnessed significant growth. This reflects a clear transition from a period of recovery to sustained and upward growth in the sector.”
The Kingdom’s fast-evolving aviation sector is reflective of its ambitions to emerge as a global travel destination rivaling its counterparts in the Gulf Cooperation Council.
It is also making its mark as an emerging business hub and center for culture and tourism drawing in visitors from all across the globe.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is focused on Vision 2030, which is the country’s grandiose and ambitious economic diversification agenda,” Giorgio Cafiero, an analyst for Gulf State Analytics told Arab News.
“Some of the key pillars of Vision 2030 include tourism, non-oil trade, logistics, and transportation,” Cafiero said.
“Within this context, Saudi Arabia is trying to bring many tourists from many parts of the world into the country, while also making the King Salman International Airport, which is supposed to be completed by 2030, a major hub that can not only compete with the UAE and Qatar’s successful airports, and even surpass them. Saudi Arabia has the resources and the will to make this airport in Riyadh a major success. If the Saudis are successful on this front, the Kingdom’s tourism industry will stand to gain in many ways.”
Alkhuraisi said the Kingdom is better connected than ever before, with the total number of destinations connected to the country reaching 127, which is over 50 percent of the 2030 target set in the Saudi Aviation Strategy.
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