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RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has unveiled its first “State of Aviation” report, highlighting the sector’s contributions to the Kingdom’s economic growth, as industry leaders gathered for the Future Aviation Forum.

During the opening ceremony of the three-day event in Riyadh, Saudi Minister of Transport and Logistics Services Saleh Al-Jasser emphasized the unprecedented importance of aviation.

Saudi Arabia’s aviation sector contributed US$21 billion to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product in 2023, while generating a further US$32.2 billion in tourism revenues, positively impacting other key areas of the economy.

“This transformation is one we invite the world to share. We are looking for private sector partners with expertise to help us achieve our ambition,” said Al-Jasser.

The Minister also reflected on the progress made in the aviation industry over the past two years and how industry leaders have worked together to overcome a major crisis by tackling global challenges and unlocking new opportunities.

This collaboration led to the introduction of new global policies, the announcement of nearly $3 billion in aviation agreements, the signing of the Riyadh Aviation Declaration and the beginning of a new golden age for aviation.

GACA’s State of Aviation report found that the Kingdom’s aviation sector contributed $53 billion to the economy and supported around 958,000 jobs across the country.

Furthermore, during the forum, the regulator introduced its General Aviation Roadmap, which aims to promote the development of Saudi Arabia’s business aircraft and private sector.

With targeted investments in six specialist general aviation airports and other initiatives, the roadmap expects the sector’s contribution to GDP to reach around $2 billion by 2030 and create 35,000 new jobs.

Al-Jasser shared three brief points, highlighting the importance of aviation in boosting global growth and well-being, highlighting the enormous opportunities being created in Saudi Arabia for all, and noting how this week Saudi’s commitment Arabia to the global aviation industry.

“Globally, air traffic numbers have exceeded pre-pandemic levels, with air freight accounting for 80 percent of the world’s trade needs,” he continued.

Outlining the achievements and developments in Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation sector since 2022, Al-Jasser noted that the Kingdom registered 111 million passengers last year and announced a comprehensive economic policy for the civil aviation sector.

He stated that the Kingdom confirmed the order of hundreds of aircraft through the existing Saudi Arabian Airlines and launched the Riyadh King Salman International Airport master plan to support more than 100 million passengers by 2030.

The minister added: “We also opened the Riyadh Integrated Special Logistics Zone, securing a leading global investor and AviLease, a global aircraft leasing company, and establishing Riyadh Air to connect Riyadh.”

During the keynote speech, Abdulaziz Al-Dualej, Chairman of the General Authority of Civil Aviation, underlined the importance of this forum and its role in improving connectivity.

“We went from almost zero flights to almost 37 million flights last year. this is unprecedented and also proves the resilience and strength of the global aviation industry,” said Al-Dualej.

He also highlighted examples of challenges, including what he urged most: the disruption of production and the supply chain.

“The aerospace industry worldwide is facing a serious shortage of production capabilities and challenges across the process value chain. This is an area we need to focus on,” the GACA President said.

He added: “Environmental sustainability is also a very important element and objective, as we all agree to protect our mother nature, we all agree on specific targets on net zero carbon emissions. Nevertheless, we agree on the what and why, but we have problems on the how.”

Commenting on the significant growth in Saudi Arabia’s aviation sector, he also said that the number of passengers reached a record 112 million in 2023, compared to 88 million in 2022, an increase of 27 percent year-on-year.

In the first quarter of this year, the number of passengers has already increased by 20 percent.

In terms of connectivity, the number of direct international destinations from the Kingdom has increased to 148, an increase of 47 percent compared to 2019, when there were 99 direct destinations.

“On the freight front, we haven’t done as well as we expected, but we still have about 6 percent growth in air freight, up to about a million, and hopefully on our way to 4.5 million,” Al said -Dualej.

The head of the GACA said: “Aviation is an important economic factor. I don’t think other national strategies will achieve their expected goals if we don’t succeed in aviation.”

He further discussed Saudi Arabia’s airport expansion and development plans, revealing that the current capacity of Saudi airports, set at 120 million passengers, is about to exceed 300 million.

“We are already working on the current terminals and expanding King Salman’s and King Khaled airports from the current 30+ million, and by the end of 2025 we will reach 54 million and on track to reach 100+ million by 2030,” said Al -Duailej said.

He added: “King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah, the Kingdom’s largest airport, handled 43 million passengers last year and is expected to reach approximately 50 million passengers.”

Moreover, Al-Dualej highlighted privatization as a key strategy to improve connectivity.

“We are also working on privatization. Privatization is another key element in achieving this connectivity. The kingdom has the first successful PPP model in the Middle East region,” he explained.

In 2012, the GACA president added, the Kingdom signed the first concession agreement with the private sector to build Medinah Airport in the West, and in 2015 the airport started serving 8 million passengers, fully financed and financed and operated by the private sector.

He also stated that an agreement was signed three weeks ago to expand an existing concession with the same company that originally owned it.

This expansion will significantly increase capacity from 8 million to approximately 17 million in 2028, more than doubling current capacity.

During the third panel session, Al-Jasser further explained the collaboration with partners and the private sector in Saudi Arabia.

“The maritime sector has been highly privatized, with us signing concession agreements with the private sector in our two main ports to invest more than SR17 billion in building new infrastructure to facilitate growth,” the minister said.

Al-Jasser noted that expansion plans for King Salman Airport are progressing well and the airport is expected to handle 100 million passengers by 2030.

In addition, the Ministry is managing the transition period leading to this goal by building more terminals and expanding existing terminals to accommodate increased passenger capacity before 2030.