Saudi Arabia's aviation sector contributes more than $20bn to economy

Report find the industry has enabled 241,000 jobs and a further 717,000 in tourism-related areas

Passengers are seen at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh. Aviation and tourism are key pillars of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, its major economic plan to diversify away from oil. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Saudi Arabia's aviation sector has contributed $20.8 billion to its gross domestic product, reflecting the key role it plays in the Arab world's biggest economy, a report from its regulator has shown.

The strength of the industry has branched out to other key areas of the country's economy, with aviation-related activities responsible for a further $32.2 billion in tourism receipts, the General Authority of Civil Aviation said in its inaugural State of Aviation Report released on Saturday.

The aviation sector alone has enabled 241,000 jobs and has contributed to supporting a further 717,000 jobs in the tourism-related areas, the Gaca report said.

It also revealed that the kingdom has outperformed global aviation sector growth rates last year, achieving 123 per cent of international pre-pandemic seat capacity compared to the global and regional average recovery rate of 90 per cent and 95 per cent, respectively.

Last year's growth amounted to 26 per cent as total passenger volumes reached 111.7 million, it added.

The full report will be released at the Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh on Monday.

The findings are aligned with Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 economic programme and the National Strategy for Transport and Logistics services, Saleh Al Jasser, Saudi Minister of Transport and Logistics Services and chairman of Gaca, said in the statement.

“The Saudi aviation sector is providing unprecedented opportunities for global aviation, achieving major leaps in global rankings," he said.

Aviation and tourism are key pillars of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, its major economic plan to diversify away from oil, as the country seeks to attract more tourists and turn the country into a logistics hub.

It has set a goal for the tourism sector to contribute 10 per cent to GDP by 2030, up from 3 per cent in 2019.

To reach its goals, Saudi Arabia is investing billions of dollars to modernise its airports and buy new planes to improve its air transport connectivity.

In October last year, Riyadh introduced reforms to help its aviation sector boost competitiveness, attract investors and increase transparency as part of a transformation plan that aims to attract $100 billion in private and public investments to the industry by 2030.

The Saudi Aviation Strategy also aims to extend Saudi Arabia’s connectivity, triple annual passenger traffic, establish two global long-haul connecting hubs and increase air cargo capacity, according to Gaca.

The kingdom's airlines are also making moves to ramp up their fleets and boost their balance sheets.

At this month's Arabian Travel Market, start-up airline Riyadh Air said it was in talks with Airbus and Boeing over a second wide-body aircraft order to grow its fleet as it prepares to start operations in the summer of 2025.

Budget airline Flyadeal, meanwhile, also said at the ATM that it was considering placing an order for more single-aisle Airbus aircraft and upgrading its existing order of 50 narrow-body jets, as it seeks to grow its international route network.

In April, low-cost airline Flynas confirmed plans to list its shares on the Tadawul stock exchange in 2024, amid the kingdom's ambitions to grow its aviation sector and a boom in initial public offerings in the country.

Saudi Arabia to build world's first Dragon Ball theme park

Saudi Arabia to build world's first Dragon Ball theme park

Countries in the GCC also have the advantage of benefitting from major events being hosted within, such as the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar, which significantly boosted demand for flights and hotels in neighouring states. Saudi Arabia is set to host the World Cup in 2034.

“Saudi Arabia is building a more resilient, connected and high-performing aviation sector – spanning our airlines, airports, cargo and logistics, and human capability and training systems," said Abdulaziz Al Duailej, president of Gaca.

Monday's Future Aviation Forum will gather more than 5,000 aviation experts and leaders from more than 100 countries, including executives from airlines, manufacturers and airports, as well as industry leaders and regulators.

Updated: May 18, 2024, 1:32 PM