By Alexander Cornwell
DUBAI (Reuters), – Saudi Arabia aims to double the number of international passengers passing through the country by 2020.
Although the plans were announced by the government in 2013, few details are known.
This strategy is estimated to invest 500 billion riyals ($133.32 million) and part of an economic policy that aims at creating jobs and reducing dependence on oil revenues.
This policy has led to Saudi Arabia being forced by the government to move its regional headquarters into the Kingdom. It puts Saudi Arabia at odds with neighboring UAE, whose main business is transit traffic.
Saudi Arabia is aiming to boost arrivals, according to Mohammed Alkhuraisi (head of strategy, General Authority of Civil Aviation).
He told Reuters that he did not want to pursue the transit market.
In order to increase a growing tourism industry and develop the Kingdom into a commercial hub, the government is pushing for 250 international direct flights per 99.
If the international transit traffic jumped tenfold, it would be 30 million more passengers in 2030 than in 2019, which is about three million. This represents 10% of Saudi Arabia’s total annual passenger traffic.
In the year preceding the pandemic Emirates transported more than 56,000,000 passengers, while Qatar Airways flew over 32 million.
Contrary to Saudi Arabia (a country with around 30 million citizens), there’s no national aviation market in Qatar and the UAE.
Some analysts believe there is enough room in the Gulf for transit traffic to rival that of Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways, especially after it has fallen behind in its goals in recent years.
Other people are skeptical, partly due to the effects of COVID-19 on the global travel market, but also because Etihad’s problems despite the state’s support.
Saudi Arabia also plans to double its annual air cargo volume to 4.5 millions by 2030, from 900,000. tonnes in 2019. Alkhuraisi stated that half of this would be moving to other countries.
Saudi Arabia has established a new airline that will operate out of Riyadh. The 77-year old state airline Saudia, however, will continue to be based out Red Sea City Jeddah as part of its transportation strategy.
Although it is not clear when the new airline, which will be owned by the Public Investment Fund, (PIF), may start operation, sources say that it will compete with Qatari and UAE carriers.
Alkhuraisi asked questions regarding the airline only to be referred to the PIF.
($1 = 3.7503 riyals)