Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz inaugurated and toured a new terminal at the King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) in Jeddah on Tuesday.
King Abdulaziz International Airport Terminal 1 (KAIA Terminal 1) has a total area of 810,000 square meters and a capacity of 30 million passengers a year.
On Tuesday, King Salman attended a visual presentation of the main features of the new airport and on civil aviation in the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Transport and chairman of the General Authority of Aviation Dr. Nabeel bin Mohamed al-Amoudi also attended.
Al-Amoudi said that the civil aviation sector in the Kingdom, “has recently achieved qualitative leaps and creative developments,” noting that these developments have contributed to 4.6 percent of GDP.
KAIA is the busiest airport in the Kingdom, accounting for 36 percent of the country’s total passengers, and is one of the largest in the region. It is the main airport for pilgrims on their way to perform the Islamic pilgrimages of Hajj and Umrah in the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
Saudi Arabia has been concentrating on expanding its tourism sector as an important step in diversifying its economy.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the number of domestic and international airports in the Kingdom has doubled to 28 airports, said al-Amoudi.
This has resulted in a subsequent increase in passengers, from 47 million in 2010 to 74 million in 2014. In 2018, this number increased further to 100 million.
In early March, the Saudi cabinet approved electronic tourist visas for overseas visitors seeking to attend specific sporting events and concerts in the Kingdom. According to officials, the visa application can be completed online and only takes a few minutes, without the need to go to an embassy or consulate.
Reports have also surfaced that Saudi Arabia may issue general tourist visas, for more than just a specific event, as part of the Kingdom’s revamp of its tourism and entertainment sectors. The Kingdom has recently been promoting its coastline and UNESCO-recognized heritage sites as tourist destinations.
A range of other projects are currently under development.
The Red Sea Project is a much-anticipated tourist destination which will offer ultra-luxurious and sustainable resorts on 50 islands off the coast of the Red Sea. Its location on the Red Sea makes it accessible to 80 percent of the world’s population in less than eight hours.
Construction has also started on the Qiddiya megaproject, an hour’s drive from Riyadh. Set to become Saudi Arabia’s “Capital of Entertainment, Sports and the Arts,” officials expect it to attract 1.5 million visitors each year when the first phase opens in 2022. US theme park company Six Flags recently announced it will open a theme park in Qiddiya featuring record-breaking rides.
In April, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also launched tourism projects in the ancient desert city of al-Ula. The projects are set to rake in a $32 billion increase in GDP, over two million visitors, and 38,000 jobs by 2035, according to the Royal Commission for al-Ula.