As Saudi Arabia reopens its border for the first in nearly 15 months, the country is looking to the future once again. As part of its ambitious Vision 2030, the Kingdom is looking to attract 100 million yearly tourists to the largely-unvisited nation. To meet this goal, flag carrier Saudia plans to play a huge role, flying millions of travelers to the nation with a robust network.
In an interview at FTE Apex Virtual Expo 2021, Saudia CEO Captain Ibrahim Koshy spoke about his airline’s future. The guiding vision of Saudia will remain its home country’s bold ‘Vision 2030.’ First announced in 2016, the plan hopes to wean the Kingdom off of oil revenues and diversify its economy.
One key part of this vision will be tourism. While Saudi Arabia does not stand out as a travel destination in the Middle East, this could change soon. Through new infrastructure, visa-free access, and more connectivity, Saudi plans to welcome 100 million yearly tourists in the next decade.
To this end, Saudia will play a key role in this tourism expansion as the flag carrier. The airline already flies to over 50 international destinations and could reach even more. Saudia sees Vision 2030 as an opportunity to grow its presence globally and capitalize on the demand for its religious routes to Mecca and Medina as well.
In a statement about the airline’s future plans, Captain Koshy said,
“When we talk about the vision 2030, we’re talking about attracting 100 million tourists that did not come to Saudi Arabia previously…Saudia has a role, when you see what’s happening over the next five years and even beyond from here to 2030. We have a role to gear up to be ready to actually bring those people to and from here. Those 100 million tourists actually equate into 330 million airport users.”
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The last year has been challenging for Saudia. The carrier was reduced to flying only a few essential services due to the Kingdom’s strict travel ban. Not only did this prohibit foreigners from entering the country, but Saudi nationals also could not leave.
This meant passenger traffic plummeted for the flag carrier, with only repatriation and robust cargo services flying for much of the year. This meant Saudia’s bold plans to display its new terminal in Jeddah and grow its reach were put on the back burner for the foreseeable future.
However, these darker days are now behind the airline. On 17th May, Saudi Arabia reopened flights from all but 20 nations globally, ending the harsh travel ban. While several key markets remain banned (including the US, UK, France, India, and more), the carrier will see traffic rise dramatically thanks to outbound travelers and those wishing to return now.
Domestic market busy
While Saudia is behind its rivals in many avenues, it has one thing they don’t: a bustling domestic market. Domestic services have kept careers like Saudia busy through the last year as the market bounced back quickly. Notably, the Kingdom’s vast market has made Saudia the biggest airline in the Middle East this summer.
For now, keep an eye out for Saudia as it expands globally to attract more tourists to its home country.
What do you think Saudia’s plans for the future? Let us know in the comments!