Bernie Baldwin

Offering fast travel to downtown Riyadh and wider Saudi delights, Ruh is an airport on the move.

“Opening a new country to the tourism world has created a buzz in the industry.” Anita Gackowska, aviation business development director for Riyadh Airports, is reflecting on the “critical” effect the introduction of a new e-Visa has had on visitor numbers to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

“It was introduced in September 2019 and is available to travellers from more than 50 countries,” Gackowska explains. “What’s more is that you can get the e-Visa on arrival and it has a multiple entry facility.

“In the other direction, young Saudis are excited to travel more and see the world, and Europe is high on the list,” she notes, a major reason for the company’s first attendance at CONNECT.

At Riyadh King Khalid International Airport (RUH), the indigenous airlines designated “national carriers” based there are Saudia, flyadeal and flynas, which have growing networks. “Flynas has recently added Georgia to its list of destinations. For the coming summer season, the airline has announced a mix of routes, some new and some which it flew last summer. These include Vienna, Salzburg, Tirana, Hurghada, Sharm El-Sheikh, Salalah, Baku, Sarajevo – and of course Tbilisi and Batumi in Georgia.

“We’ve been meeting with delegates from CIS and CEE (central and eastern European) countries, looking to develop beyond traditional markets which bring travellers for Hajj and Umrah,” Gackowska confirms. “Many of those who do travel for those events are now staying longer, having holidays and spending more.”

At the airport, passengers can expect improved facilities, particularly in Terminals 3 and 4, where refurbishment is due to complete in 2021. “We have a relatively new domestic terminal, T5, which opened in 2016, and which can handle up to 15 million passengers a year,” Gackowska says. “With other work being doing across the airport, the vision is to have a total capacity in excess of 37 million by 2023.”

A new Metro service directly to the airport from downtown Riyadh will open in 2021. “There are trains already doing test runs,” the senior advisor remarks. “There are also a number of new bus test runs being done between the airport and a variety of suburbs without a Metro line.”

All this means that, whether local or international, Riyadh and the Kingdom are making access to them easier for travellers.