Saudi Arabia braces for Eid Al-Fitr rush with anticipated surge in airline passengers

Special Saudi Arabia braces for Eid Al-Fitr rush with anticipated surge in airline passengers
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Updated 10 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia braces for Eid Al-Fitr rush with anticipated surge in airline passengers

Saudi Arabia braces for Eid Al-Fitr rush with anticipated surge in airline passengers
  • Air travel between the UAE and Saudi Arabia alone has witnessed a noticeable surge

RIYADH: Buoyed by the millions of Umrah performers and worshippers throughout the holy month of Ramadan, Saudi Arabia braces for a surge in travel for Eid Al-Fitr. 

The spike is expected to result in a significant rise in the number of arriving and departing passengers from key Umrah airports. 

Air travel between the UAE and Saudi Arabia alone has witnessed a noticeable surge, driven by increasing demand from individuals wishing to perform Umrah rituals during the holy month of Ramadan. The demand generally reaches its peak during the last 10 days of the holy month. 

According to the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority statistics, flights between the UAE and Saudi Arabia increased by 13.3 percent in March, rising to around 383 weekly flights compared to approximately 338 in February, coinciding with the beginning of Ramadan. 

Saudi aviation management firm Matarat Holding predicts that overall travelers will reach 6.6 million this year, reflecting a 25 percent growth compared to the previous year. 

Khaled Al-Hamash, executive vice president of strategy at Matarat, told Arab News: “Those traveling on Umrah charter flights are 500,000 passengers and the rest are scheduled. Those traveling from and to international destinations are 4.7 million passengers and the rest are domestic.”   

This comes as the Kingdom witnessed a significant influx of travelers last year. According to data released by Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation in May 2023, the number of passengers to and from its airports during Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr exceeded 11.5 million people from the beginning of the holy month until the ninth of Shawwal. 

The success of last year’s hosting sets a precedent for this year’s Eid Al-Fitr celebrations, indicating the Kingdom’s readiness to facilitate travel and accommodate pilgrims during this festive period.  

The impact on traveling during Eid Al-Fitr this year is anticipated to be significant, suggesting that travel demand during the season will be much higher based on previous figures. 

“Eid holidays have traditionally been peak travel season for domestic and international travelers from Saudi,” Muzammil Ahussain, CEO of Almosafer, told Arab News.  

He added: “This year too we have witnessed an initial upsurge in bookings for the Eid travel season. With many preferring to finalize their travel plans closer to the holidays, we are anticipating even greater demand for flights and hotel stays.”  

Ahussain explained that many residents prefer shorter flights and are opting for staycation trips. This choice allows them to spend quality time with family while exploring popular tourist destinations within the country.  

“Trips to AlUla and Al Ahsa are particularly attractive to domestic travelers, with top destinations like Riyadh, Dammam, and Jeddah drawing travelers,” he said.  

For international trips, the CEO noted that destinations including Dubai, Cairo, and European capitals like Paris and London continue to be “all-time favorites” among travelers from Saudi Arabia.  

“This year, we are also witnessing a greater demand for travel to Turkiye and Thailand, as well as far-Eastern destinations like Korea and Japan,” he added.  

Capacity addition   

Given the high demand during the Eid Al-Fitr period, airlines strategically adapt to accommodate the surge in passengers, both domestically and internationally. 

This includes significant increases in seat capacity and flight frequency, ensuring smoother travel experiences for all passengers.  

Saudia, for instance, has significantly increased the number of seats both domestically and internationally for this year’s Eid compared to the previous year’s season.   

According to the Kingdom’s national carrier, the allocation of international sector seats rose by 36 percent to over 246,000 seats, with 602 flights, marking a 44 percent increase compared to Eid 2023.  

Additionally, the domestic sector experienced a surge in seat capacity, with an increase of 21 percent totaling more than 270,000 seats. This was accompanied by 1,300 flights, reflecting a 21 percent increase compared to the previous year’s Eid season.  

“Saudia is committed to providing a flexible operational plan throughout the year and during peak seasons. As we mark the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid Al-Fitr, we are seeing a high travel demand and are prepared to provide additional flights and increase seat capacity to address the growing demand,” Sulaiman Yaqoobi, chief operating officer at Saudia Group, told Arab News.  

He added: “We are also sharing the spirit of Eid with Saudia’s guests onboard and at AlFursan lounges by distributing sweets and broadcasting Eid Takbeer, as we always strive to give our guests the best experience possible.”  

Saudia is also capitalizing on this opportunity by offering a promotional deal, featuring a 25 percent discount for travel between Saudi Arabia, other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, and Egypt in the hospitality class.  

The booking window for this offer is from April 7 to April 30, with the travel period spanning from April 9 to Sept. 30, 2024.  

The Almosafer CEO highlighted that Dubai stands out as a “preferred destination” due to its proximity to Saudi Arabia and its visa-free status for Saudi passport holders, making travel there convenient, “which means people can travel with great ease.” 

According to the latest data from the UAE’s GCAA, flydubai increased its flights to the Kingdom by 40 percent from 93 weekly flights in February to 130 flights in March, while Etihad Airways also increased its flights by more than 22.2 percent, from 63 flights in February to 77 flights in March. 

Meanwhile, Emirates operated approximately 67 weekly flights to the Kingdom in March, covering Dammam, Jeddah, Madinah, and Riyadh, while Wizz Air Abu Dhabi operated about 21 weekly flights including Dammam and Madinah. 

Additionally, flights operated by Air Arabia reached approximately 88 weekly flights, the GCAA data showed. 

During Ramadan and the Umrah season, from March 11 to April 7, Etihad Airways successfully transported around 45,000 passengers to its destinations in Saudi Arabia. Most travelers visiting the Kingdom during this period were from the UAE, India, Pakistan, and Indonesia. 

Surge in flights   

The impact on traveling during Eid Al-Fitr is significant, with Saudi Arabia’s demonstrated ability to manage crowds and ensure the smooth operation of religious events providing reassurance to travelers.  

Furthermore, the distribution of passengers across key Umrah airports offers insights into the nation’s transportation infrastructure and connectivity.   

Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport emerges as the primary gateway for Umrah travelers, accommodating a staggering 81 percent of the anticipated passengers.  

“Although Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport has the most traffic, Madinah’s Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz International Airport follows suit, handling 16 percent of the total traffic,” Al-Hamash said.  

He added: “Taif International Airport and Prince Abdul Mohsin Bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Yanbu serve as additional entry points.”  

Al-Hamash also outlined the anticipated number of arriving and departing flights, both chartered and scheduled, to and from major Umrah airports during the season, spanning from the first Ramadan to the sixth of Shawwal or until after Eid Al-Fitr.  

“The total expected number of flights surpasses 37,000, indicating a notable 19 percent increase compared to the previous year,” he said.  

Overall, the Umrah and Eid Al-Fitr holidays are playing a key role in reviving the hospitality industry, signaling a return to the robust performance recorded across the GCC region.


Japan company Uhuru signs smart-city business pact in Saudi Arabia

Japan company Uhuru signs smart-city business pact in Saudi Arabia
Updated 8 sec ago
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Japan company Uhuru signs smart-city business pact in Saudi Arabia

Japan company Uhuru signs smart-city business pact in Saudi Arabia
  • The company plans to use Uhuru’s strengths to enhance convenience and safety for religious tourism, including the Hajj

TOKYO: Tokyo-based Uhuru Corp. has signed an agreement with Web Arabia, a technology company operating in Riyadh, to promote smart city-related business in the Kingdom.

Web Arabia specializes in smart-city solutions and is a subsidiary of Metscco Heavy Steel Industries, a leading general-engineering company responsible for infrastructure construction in Saudi Arabia.

The company plans to use Uhuru’s strengths to enhance convenience and safety for religious tourism, including the Hajj, as well as urban infrastructure such as buildings, stadiums and airports.

Uhuru has been developing various projects in the Kingdom, including research and development programs in collaboration with local organizations.

Saudi Arabia recorded 27.4 million foreign visitors in 2023.


ADNOC to boost production target by 2030

ADNOC to boost production target by 2030
Updated 27 May 2024
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ADNOC to boost production target by 2030

ADNOC to boost production target by 2030

RIYADH: The Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. plans to boost its local manufacturing target for critical industrial products to 90 billion dirhams ($24.5 billion) by 2030 in a bid to strengthen the UAE’s industrial sector and expand local manufacturing capabilities.

ADNOC made the announcement at the “Make it in the Emirates” forum, adding that the new target is part of its expanded In-Country Value program, which aims to drive an additional 178 billion dirhams back into the UAE economy by 2028. 

“This expanded initiative will support the UAE’s economic diversification, attract local and international investors, and provide high-skilled private sector jobs for UAE nationals. Additionally, it will stimulate entrepreneurial growth and drive sustainability in ADNOC’s supply chain,” said Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber, minister of industry and advanced technology, and ADNOC managing director and group CEO. 

This expanded initiative will support the UAE’s economic diversification, attract local and international investors.

Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber, UAE minister of industry and advanced technology

The company said its previous 2027 target of 70 billion dirhams worth of products was “delivered ahead of schedule” following the award of two contracts for metal pipes and valves worth 16.8 billion dirhams to local manufacturers.

The contracts include 8.8 billion dirhams for metal pipes to PM Piping Petroleum Equipment, Ajmal Steel, and the Emirati-owned Al Gharbia Pipe Co.; and 8 billion dirhams for mechanical valves to Samamat, Camtech Manufacturing, Tisco Valves Manufacturing, PTPA, MT Valves and Industries.

ADNOC’s expanded ICV program also aims to provide a micro, small and medium enterprises accelerator program to enable Emirati businesses and local mSMEs to conduct business across ADNOC’s supply chain.


Saudi Arabia’s Sports Boulevard doubles its existing investment fund to $533m  

Saudi Arabia’s Sports Boulevard doubles its existing investment fund to $533m  
Updated 27 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s Sports Boulevard doubles its existing investment fund to $533m  

Saudi Arabia’s Sports Boulevard doubles its existing investment fund to $533m  

RIYADH: Private sector participation in the Sports Boulevard project is set to increase as the foundation behind Riyadh’s largest linear park plans to double its investment fund to SR2 billion ($533 million). 

In a press release, the Sports Boulevard Foundation announced its partnership with Ajdan Real Estate Development Co. and Albilad Capital to add an additional SR1 billion to the private real estate investment fund “Sports Boulevard Real Estate Fund 1.” 

This increased funding will be utilized to bolster private sector participation within the Arts District, one of the destinations within the Sports Boulevard project. 

The Sports Boulevard Development Co. will continue to hold the majority of units in the fund, while Ajdan Real Estate Development Co. will serve as a developer and primary investor, and Albilad Capital will act as the fund manager. 

This partnership underscores the collaborative effort behind the expansion, signifying a strategic alliance aimed at creating a vibrant urban space that enhances Riyadh’s cultural and economic landscape.  

The project aims to develop a mixed-use lifestyle destination consisting of residential, retail, office, and entertainment components.  

Covering a land area of over 39,000 sq. m. at the heart of the Arts District, the total combined built-up site spans approximately 240,000 sq. m., boasting over 100,000 sq. m. of net leasable area.   

The design of this destination draws inspiration from the Sports Boulevard Design Code, influenced by the Salmani Architectural Style. This ensures a dynamic and immersive lifestyle experience for both residents and visitors. 

Situated at the intersection of Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Road and Prince Turki bin Abdulaziz Al Awwal Road, it offers expansive public spaces, recreational areas, and cycling-friendly tracks. 

Covering an area of 184,000 sq. m., the project extends beyond private development parcels, providing ample space for recreational activities and pedestrian-friendly pathways, efficiently linked to the promenade and cycling bridge. 

Sports Boulevard, a mega project launched by King Salman bin Abdulaziz in 2019, and supported by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, spans over 135 km on Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Road.  

It features safe green pathways for pedestrians, cyclists, athletes, and horse riders, connecting Wadi Hanifah in the west to Wadi Al Sulai in the east. 

Additionally, the project includes over 4.4 million sq. m. of greenery, open spaces, and up to 50 multidisciplinary sports facilities. It also hosts several unique destinations and investment zones, totaling an area exceeding 3 million sq. m. 


Closing Bell: Saudi benchmark index edges down to close at 11,831

Closing Bell: Saudi benchmark index edges down to close at 11,831
Updated 27 May 2024
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Closing Bell: Saudi benchmark index edges down to close at 11,831

Closing Bell: Saudi benchmark index edges down to close at 11,831

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index slipped on Monday, losing 19.42 points, or 0.16 percent, to close at 11,831.22.  

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR5.8 billion ($1.5 billion) as 110 stocks advanced, while 108 retreated.   

On the other hand, the Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu also slipped 189.65 points, or 0.71 percent, to close at 26,448.54. This comes as 30 stocks advanced while as many as 34 retreated.  

Similarly, the MSCI Tadawul Index also dropped 2.67 points, or 0.18 percent, to close at 1,470.41.    

The best-performing stock of the day was Saudi Paper Manufacturing Co. The company’s share price surged 4.89 percent to SR75.10.  

Other top performers included CHUBB Arabia Cooperative Insurance Co. as well as Middle East Specialized Cables Co., whose share prices soared by 3.96 percent and 3.46 percent, to stand at SR34.10 and SR32.85 respectively.  

On Nomu, Osool and Bakheet Investment Co. was the top gainer, with its share price rising by 9.22 percent to SR48.   

Other best performers on Nomu were View United Real Estate Development Co. as well as Al-Modawat Specialized Medical Co., whose share prices soared by 6.53 percent and 6.20 percent to stand at SR79.90 and SR150.80, respectively.  

Additional top gainers included Almujtama Alraida Medical Co. and Bena Steel Industries Co.  

On the announcement front, Saudi Basic Industries Corp., known as SABIC, received all necessary approvals from relevant authorities to complete the acquisition of its subsidiary Saudi Iron and Steel Co., also known as HADEED, by the Public Investment Fund. 

In a statement on Tadawul, SABIC announced that it has satisfied all transaction-related conditions to complete the SR12.5 billion acquisition announced earlier in September 2023. 

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia aluminum producer Al Taiseer Group Talco Industrial Co. is listing a 30 percent stake on the Tadawul stock exchange following an initial public offering, setting the final offer price at SR43 per share. 

The company is selling 12 million shares and has completed the book-building process for institutional investors, which saw a coverage of 68.5 times the total offer shares, according to Alinma Investment Co., the lead manager and financial adviser to the issuance. 

The book-building process for retail investors will run for two days starting on May 28. During this time, they can subscribe to a maximum of 10 percent of the shares. The final share allocation is set for June 2. 


Saudi Arabia focused on promoting energy efficiency: top official

Saudi Arabia focused on promoting energy efficiency: top official
Updated 27 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia focused on promoting energy efficiency: top official

Saudi Arabia focused on promoting energy efficiency: top official

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s budding energy efficiency sector has witnessed notable growth, with the number of licensed service providers reaching 55 by the end of 2023, says a top official. 

As the Kingdom strives to reduce its carbon footprint, with recently amplified goals to achieve net-zero by 2060, the Saudi Energy Efficiency Center is working to aide the nation in realizing these ambitions, Nasser Al-Ghamdi, the CEO of the center noted. 

In his inaugural address at the Saudi ESCO forum, the top executive stressed the entity’s role in raising awareness about energy efficiency. He highlighted that 26 universities nationwide have adopted energy efficiency topics and courses in their curricula.

“Since the inception of the center, we have launched various initiatives that will help in reducing energy consumption,” Al- Ghamdi said.

Among these undertakings, the body has succeeded in launching and implementing more than 200 training programs in the field of energy efficiency, the CEO added. 

The executive emphasized that the center has strived to create the necessary ecosystem for suppliers and their beneficiaries in this “promising market” to ensure the quality of energy-efficiency service providers.

He added that this will be achieved through the application of a licensing system for those interested in investing in this field after meeting the technical requirements necessary to provide the service. 

Highlighting the role that the fledgling sector is playing in achieving net-zero goals, the CEO said: “The sector, which is considered relatively new, is helping companies and enterprises and buildings in finding solutions to efficiently use energy, including financing and managing solutions and projects. These companies also contribute energy consumption analysis and knowing opportunities for companies to improve their consumption.”

Due to the absence of energy efficiency activities in the commercial sector, one of the highest energy consumers in the Kingdom, accounting for 15.7 percent of total consumption of facilities in the nation, the body launched a pilot project to improve this field. 

The initiative aims to improve conditions in the commercial sector by raising business owners’ awareness of opportunities, as implementing energy auditing projects is expected to improve overall efficiency.