Araft of transport, infrastructure and development projects currently under way in Saudi Arabia are set to give a fillip to the kingdom’s tourism industry.
A €266-million ($314 million) contract has been signed with Spanish technology consultancy Indra for the new public transportation system currently under construction in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This is the biggest ticketing project in the world till date and the project will be completed in 54 months. Indra is also the technological partner for a high-speed railroad project between Madinah and Makkah. The Haramain High Speed Rail project is currently under construction and will have a phased opening starting end of this year.
Saudi Arabian authorities have also announced plans to develop the coastal area of the western city of Jeddah. A new entertainment bay with beaches, open theatres, playgrounds and walkways for residents and visitors will come at a price tag of SR1.27 billion ($338 million). Visitors to the corniche will be able to commute using a monorail. The municipality will develop and enhance the entire coast of Jeddah, starting from the Border Guard barracks to Al Rahma Mosque.
NEW ONLINE VISAS
The country’s new tourism regulations proposed by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), have been approved by the cabinet, and the new system, along with relevant licensing, will be implemented by all businessmen and operators in the tourism service sector within a year.
Saudi Arabia plans to issue visas online for families of expatriates in the kingdom, eliminating the need for expatriates to make personal visits to the Passport Department or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Applicants, however, must provide housing facilities and medical insurance for their family members, and ensure their departure before the expiry of the visa period. To use the online facility, applicants must also specify that the purpose of the visit is to meet family and not perform Hajj or Umrah.
MAJOR AIRPORT WORKS
There is progress in the airwaves as well, with Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) all set to build three new airports in Jazan, Abha and Arar, as part of efforts to meet the demand of growing passenger traffic.
About 50 per cent of work has been completed on the new terminal at the King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh. Following completion of the work, the airport’s passenger handling capacity will rise to about 36 million annually, three times more than the current capacity.
The country is also considering the privatisation of operations at some of its major airports with huge domestic and international passenger traffic. The management and operation of Taif airport, for instance, will be privatised later this year.
The Haj terminal of King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) in Jeddah and Prince Muhammad Bin Abdulaziz Airport in Madinah have already been privatised.
Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia), the flag carrier of the kingdom, transported 27.8 million passengers in 2014, registering a 10.49 per cent increase.
Meanwhile, Gulf Air, the national carrier of Bahrain, has launched direct operations to Gassim and Taif, with four flights per week to each destination.
At a press conference held in Riyadh in collaboration with the airline’s Saudi Arabia general sales agent Al Tayyar Travel and Tourism Group, the airline celebrated the strengthening and expansion of its Saudi Arabian network supplemented by the addition of services to the two new cities.
The airline’s existing operations to Dammam, Riyadh, Medina and Jeddah and its new additions take the total number of Saudi Arabian destinations serviced by the airline to six.
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