Oil-rich Saudi Arabia plans to invest SAR200bn (US$53.33bn) in its aviation sector over the next five years, it has been reported.
According to Arab News, the spending is in order to meet the demands of increasing air traffic in the kingdom due to a fast-growing population and economic development.
The report did not give any specific information on how the sum would be allocated to certain projects and when, but there is currently major work ongoing in the country's air transport industry, including the expansion of Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport and Riyadh’s King Khaled International Airport.
Preliminary studies and design work for the development and expansion of Riyadh's airport have been completed and construction work is due to begin November.
The improved Jeddah airport, estimated to cost SAR27bn (US$7.19bn), should begin operations in 2014, with its capacity increased from 17m to 30m passengers annually, reported the newspaper.
Khaled Al-Molhem, director general of Saudi Arabian Airlines, said: "About 7m people come to the Kingdom from different countries every year. The Umrah (Islamic pilgrimage) sector is growing fast at the rate of 35 percent a year.”
He also revealed the airline's plan to launch the largest aircraft maintenance plant in the Middle East at Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz Airport.
“We have already awarded the contract to a company to implement the project and the plant will be ready by 2014,” he said.
Maz Aviation Chairman Muhammad Al-Zeer described the kingdom’s air industry sector as the biggest in the region and said that adding new aviation projects would require a large number of Saudi workers.
“According to our study, the Saudi aviation market can provide 120,000 jobs during the next 10 years,” he pointed out.
Al Zeer said that the fast expanding aviation sector in Saudi Arabia will offer 8,000 jobs to young Saudis every year, reported Arab daily Saudi Gazette.