Jeddah airport to play critical role in Saudi Arabia’s tourism offensive

The expansion of the international airport in Jeddah will form a key part of the country's global tourism push. (Photo courtesy of Atkins)
Updated 09 November 2017
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Jeddah airport to play critical role in Saudi Arabia’s tourism offensive

LONDON: A massive, multibillion-dollar expansion project at King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah is critical to opening up the Kingdom to millions more visitors over the next 10 to 20 years, a senior official of Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia), the national flag carrier, told Arab News on the sidelines of the World Travel Market in London.
“From Saudia’s point of view, this will be our international hub and a connector hub for international passenger flows in the future. It is part of the Vision 2030 program,” he said.
“We want to be the main carrier for the airport — but not the only one — so we can bring in passengers from all over the world.”
Hajj and Umrah passengers would be Saudia’s main focus, but it also wants to capture transit passengers from Asia, North America and Europe as Saudi Arabia’s tourist infrastructure develops significantly in the years ahead.
The official ruled out Saudia buying stakes in foreign airlines to help the airport attract more international carriers, which in turn could allow target airlines to win landing slots. King Abdul Aziz International currently caters for 30 million passengers a year — the majority involved in Hajj and Umrah.
Instead, Saudia could “utilize” its existing relationship with the SkyTeam global airline alliance of which it is a member, and includes KLM, Air France, China Airlines, Aeroflot, China Southern and Delta.
Although the main focus will be on visitors coming to Saudi Arabia on Umrah visas, the expanded airport and infrastructure will see the airport transformed into an interconnector hub for travelers from around the world.
International passengers could break their journeys in Jeddah in much the same way as transit passengers spend a few days in Dubai before continuing to other destinations, suggested the official.
But while transit passengers traveling on Dubai flag carrier, Emirates, made up about 60 percent of the total, Saudia would settle for less — around 30 percent, said the official.
For the expansion plans to work smoothly, a revamped visa system would be needed to make traveling to the Kingdom easier. The official is confident visa changes would be signed off by the authorities soon.
The Kingdom is already developing new resorts and centers on the Red Sea, undertaking a significant expansion of hotels and apartments in Jeddah and elsewhere; it has also earmarked enhancements to national rail and road networks, as well as improving links between airports within the country.
The most ambitious project for the country was announced on Oct. 24 2017, by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he unveiled plans to build a $500 billion mega city on the Red Sea coast, as part of a huge national push to diversify its economy.
The 26,500 square kilometers zone, known as Neom, will focus on industries including energy and water, biotechnology, food, advanced manufacturing and entertainment.
“The focus on these sectors will stimulate economic growth and diversification by nurturing international innovation and manufacturing, to drive local industry, job creation, and GDP growth in the Kingdom,” said the crown prince, who is also the chairman of the Public Investment Fund (PIF).
The new airport in Jeddah is spread across 105 square kilometers and features a 136m air traffic control tower, 3,000-person
capacity mosque, 220 service counters 80
self-service counters and parking for 8,200
vehicles.
The expansion work also includes a SR350 million ($93.3 million) Saudia facility designed to increase the airline’s number of flights from 500 to 1,000 a day.
The move is expected to reduce crowding, particularly during the holiday season.
King Abdul Aziz International Airport received 31 million passengers in 2016, a 3 percent increase on 2015.
This included 15.9 million in the south terminal, 6.7 million in the north terminal and 8 million in the Hajj terminal.
The airport is expected to exceed the 31 million figure this year, nearly three times its 12 million capacity due to the growing number of Umrah pilgrims.
Phase one of the expansion will be completed in June to cope with a capacity of between 30 million and 35 million. The second phase — due for completion in three or four years — will boost that number to 65 million, and the third phase will take capacity to 90 million.
Saudia is increasing its fleet from 140 planes to 200 by 2020, with new 787s and A320s under order, said the official.


Disney closes $71 billion deal with Fox for X-Men, Deadpool and The Simpsons

Updated 7 min 31 sec ago
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Disney closes $71 billion deal with Fox for X-Men, Deadpool and The Simpsons

  • With Fox acquisition, Disney adds Marvel’s X-Men and Deadpool in its pool
  • Disney needs compelling TV shows and movies to persuade viewers to sign up and pay for yet another streaming service

Disney has closed its $71 billion acquisition of Fox’s entertainment business, putting “Cinderella,” “The Simpsons,” “Star Wars” and “Dr. Strange” under one corporate roof.
The deal is likely to shake up the media landscape. Among other things, it paves the way for Disney to launch its streaming service, Disney Plus, due out later this year. It will also likely lead to layoffs in the thousands, thanks to duplication in Fox and Disney film-production staff.
By buying the studios behind “The Simpsons” and X-Men, Disney aims to better compete with technology companies such as Amazon and Netflix for viewers’ attention — and dollars.
Disney needs compelling TV shows and movies to persuade viewers to sign up and pay for yet another streaming service. It already has classic Disney cartoons, “Star Wars,” Pixar, the Muppets and some of the Marvel characters. With Fox, Disney could add Marvel’s X-Men and Deadpool, along with programs shown on such Fox channels as FX Networks and National Geographic. Fox’s productions also include “The Americans,” “This Is Us” and “Modern Family.”
The deal helps Disney further control TV shows and movies from start to finish — from creating the programs to distributing them though television channels, movie theaters, streaming services and other ways people watch entertainment. Disney would get valuable data on customers and their entertainment-viewing habits, which it can then use to sell advertising.
Disney CEO Bob Iger said in an earnings call in February that Disney Plus and other direct-to-consumer businesses are Disney’s “No. 1 priority.”
Cable and telecom companies have been buying the companies that make TV shows and movies to compete in a changing media landscape. Although Internet providers like AT&T and Comcast directly control their customers’ access to the Internet in a way that Amazon, YouTube and Netflix do not, they still face threats as those streaming services gain in popularity.
AT&T bought Time Warner last year for $81 billion and has already launched its own streaming service, Watch TV, with Time Warner channels such as TBS and TNT, among other networks, for $15 a month.
In addition to boosting the Disney streaming service, expected to debut next year, the deal paves the way for Marvel’s X-Men and the Avengers to reunite in future movies. Though Disney owns Marvel Studios, some characters including the X-Men had already been licensed to Fox.
Disney also gets a controlling stake in the existing streaming service Hulu, which it plans to keep operating as a home for more general programming. Family-friendly shows and movies will head to Disney Plus.
No pricing has been disclosed for Disney Plus. The streaming service will feature five categories of material: Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. Disney charges $5 a month for ESPN Plus, a service that offers programming distinct from the ESPN cable channel.
Meanwhile, Fox Corp. — the parts of 21st Century Fox that are not part of the deal, including Fox News, Fox Sports and Fox Broadcasting — started trading on the Nasdaq under the “FOX” and “FOXA” tickers on Tuesday.