Saudi Arabia sees 20 pct surge in passengers so far in 2024: GACA President

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Saudi Arabia has seen a 20 percent surge in passenger travel figures so far in 2024, the President of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) Abdulaziz al-Duailej said at the Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh.

This growth follows a record-breaking 26 percent increase in 2023, which brought the total number of passengers last year to 111 million.

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The GACA president attributed the increase to the Kingdom’s robust aviation connectivity program, which expanded links by 48 percent in 2023 by adding 148 new destinations globally.

He also noted that low-cost carriers have significantly increased their international market share since the pandemic.

The Minister of Tourism and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Saudi Tourism Authority (STA), Ahmed al-Khateeb, said that the tourism industry has grown 122 percent since 2019, reaching pre-COVID figures.

Speaking at the Riyadh forum, al-Khateeb said that the Kingdom achieved its goal of welcoming 100 million visitors per year, seven years earlier than planned.

According to al-Khateeb, Saudi Arabia has also been making major efforts to improve domestic tourism by cooperating with the Gulf countries on various initiatives, including the unified visa program for the Gulf region.

The unified visa, once launched, will allow travel for 30 continuous days across Gulf countries like the UAE, Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain.

The Kingdom has several key objectives planned for the aviation sector, al-Duailej said, including expanding the number of destinations to over 250, boosting cargo capacity to 4.5 million tons annually, and increasing passenger traffic to 330 million.

Work is underway to raise the targets to receive 150 million visitors by 2030, including more than 70 million international tourists, the Saudi minister said.

He stressed that the tourism sector contributes 10 percent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and creates 1.6 million jobs, with plans to double the number of Umrah pilgrims.

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