Saudi Arabia's enormous investment in its tourism infrastructure is a critical part of its strategy to attract 100 million tourists annually by 2030.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced on Monday plans to transform Riyadh airport into a massive aviation hub with six parallel runways and designed to accommodate up to 120 million travellers by 2030, state news agency SPA reported.
Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), will build King Salman International Airport, which should stretch over 57 square kilometres (22.01 square miles) and include current King Khaled airport, SPA said.
Aviation is part of a government strategy to become a global transportation and logistics hub by 2030, with Riyadh airport as the operation base of a brand new airline, RIA, that would compete with regional heavyweights Emirates and Qatar Airways.
The kingdom has set itself high targets for diversifying its economy and reducing its dependence on oil, pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into a plan called Vision 2030 initiated by the kingdom’s de facto ruler Prince Mohammed.
“The airport project is in line with Saudi Arabia’s vision to transform Riyadh to be among the top ten city economies in the world and to support the growth of Riyadh’s population to 15–20 million people by 2030,” SPA said.
It added King Salman airport would create 103,000 direct and indirect jobs, handle 185 million travellers and process 3.5 million tons of cargo by 2050.
It did not give details on the planned investments but a person familiar with the plans has told Reuters the PIF’s aviation department is getting hefty funds to create an ecosystem of cargo and passenger airlines, repair companies and airports.
The 77-year-old state airline Saudia will be based out of the Red Sea city Jeddah under the transportation strategy that calls for the establishment of the two hubs.
The kingdom is already in talks with planemakers Airbus SE and Boeing Co on orders for the two carriers Saudia and RIA.
(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)
Middle East Travel Roundup
Get the latest news from the Middle East in one easy-to-digest newsletter.
Photo credit: King Khalid International Airport will be expanded as part of the Saudi government's plan to improve its touris Kskhh / Flickr