Residents of the Saudi city of Abha are disappointed over the long delay in starting a ‘plane-restaurant’ project, which had received big media publicity three years ago when the investment project was first proposed by the Asir municipality to promote domestic tourism.
The body of a 747 jumbo aircraft is still lying in Umm Al-Rakb, north of Abha, while people are wondering whether the declaration of Abha as the capital of Arab tourism for the year 2017 would see the project’s re-launch this year.
Nasser Al-Asmari spoke about the history of the project as the plane was transported from Madinah to the southern city of Abha three years ago with the support of security and traffic police. “Technicians worked 20 days to dismantle the jumbo jet in Madinah,” he told Okaz/Saudi Gazette.
The plane was transported on a huge carrier to Abha at a total cost of SR2 million, Al-Asmari said, adding that the event drew a lot of criticism from the public through the social media.
“Officials did not yield to public criticism as the plane was transported through 25 cities, townships and villages damaging landmarks along roads, electricity power lines and over bridges. Moreover, it also created traffic delays and problems in many places,” he explained.
Finally, the plane landed on top of Umm Al-Rakb mountain and the technicians had to toil hard to reset the plane to get its real look.
Unfortunately, the project was aborted in the bud. “We have not seen any progress on this tourism project and we don’t know the reason,” Al-Asmari said.
Saad Al-Qahtani said the Asir municipality selected Umm Al-Rakb for the plane restaurant to take off and boost tourism in the region. “It was an international idea and the selection of the place was right as new residential areas have been coming up in northern part of Abha,” he added.
Abdullah Aseeri urged the municipality to quick-start the project as early as possible to promote tourism and make the restaurant an imposing landmark in Abha. “We hope the Asir mayoralty understands the significance of such a unique hotel with modern facilities,” Aseeri told Okaz/Saudi Gazette.
On Feb. 11, 2015 former Asir mayor Ibrahim Al-Khalil said the project would be awarded to a contractor who has offered to build the restaurant for SR25 million. But nothing happened. Later, acting mayor Ali Hasniya said the municipality is determined to implement the plane restaurant project, adding that it would be first of its kind in the Kingdom.
Mohammed Al-Omra, director general of the branch office of Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) in the Asir region, supported the project as an excellent idea. “We need such unique projects to attract more tourists to the region,” he said.
Speaking to Okaz/Saudi Gazette, Al-Omra said the establishment of a plane restaurant would lead to the creation of a unique tourism product. “We hope the municipality would soon take up this investment project with the support of businessmen,” he added.
The official highlighted the project’s economic and social significance and expressed his optimism that the plane restaurant in Abha would become a big success.
*This article was first published on the Saudi Gazette on Jan. 03, 2016.SHOW MORE