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Saudi aviation industry adds $20 billion to economy

The aviation industry directly employs 241,000 people, with a further 717,000 jobs supported in tourism-related sectors.

Saudi aviation industry adds $20 billion to economy
[Source photo: Krishna Prasad/Fast Company Middle East]

The aviation industry is a cornerstone of Saudi Arabia’s ambitious Vision 2030 economic diversification plan, which aims to triple annual passenger traffic and increase air cargo capacity.

The kingdom is heavily investing in its aviation infrastructure to achieve these goals. Billions are being poured into airport modernization and acquiring new aircraft, focusing on improving air connectivity. 

A new report by the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) shows that these efforts are paying off, highlighting the sector’s vital role in the kingdom’s economy. In 2023, the sector contributed a significant $20.8 billion to the country’s GDP.

The report reveals the aviation industry’s positive ripple effects. Activities related to air travel generated an additional $32.2 billion in tourism receipts, demonstrating the strong link between the two sectors.

The aviation industry directly employs 241,000 people, with 717,000 jobs supported in tourism-related sectors. This significant job creation underscores the industry’s role as an engine for economic growth.

The report also boasts of Saudi Arabia’s impressive aviation recovery. Passenger traffic reached 111.7 million in 2023, reflecting a 26% growth year-on-year. 

This outperforms global and regional averages, with the kingdom achieving 123% of pre-pandemic international seat capacity compared to the global and regional figures of 90% and 95%, respectively.

The report further highlights Saudi airlines’ ambitious plans. Flynas, a low-cost carrier, recently confirmed an initial public offering, while Riyadh Air and Flyadeal are expanding their fleets with new aircraft orders.

The upcoming Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh, expected to gather over 5,000 industry leaders, reflects the growing importance of Saudi Arabia’s aviation sector. With major events like the 2034 World Cup, the kingdom is poised to become a global aviation powerhouse.

Gaca President Abdulaziz Al Duailej summarized the country’s vision: ““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.” 

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