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Airports consider ‘transit hotels’ for 6-hour stays

Plaza Premium offers airport hospitality in Singapore's Changi Airport and plans to use its expertise in the Gulf transit hotels Heorshe/Alamy via Reuters Connect
Plaza Premium Group already offers hospitality in Singapore's Changi Airport and plans to use its expertise to expand its transit hotels in the Gulf
  • Rooms for travellers who want a nap
  • Concept being developed in Gulf
  • Twenty ‘Aerotels’ in pipleline

Saudi Arabia’s aviation expansion could stretch to transit hotels inside airport terminals where customers can pay for stays of less than the standard 24 hours.  

A Hong Kong-based company is developing the concept in the Gulf, with hotels offering six and 12-hour stays already established in Jeddah and Abu Dhabi, and a Muscat hotel that will double in size this year to 160 rooms. 

“If your flight is at 2am or 3am you might want to arrive a bit early and take a nap for a few hours before check-in,” said Bora Isbulan, deputy CEO of Plaza Premium Group. 

“Or sometimes you arrive in the morning and you’re not able to go to your hotel to check in so you want a few hours’ nap before going to the city. 

“For those types of inefficiencies, it’s a travel concept that we can scale up globally.

“We’ll have 20 properties under our network brand as ‘Aerotel’ by the end of year, and subject to market needs we’re open to adding more properties.” 

Saudi Arabia is hoping to turn its main airports of Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam into regional transit hubs as part of its drive to make tourism cover 10 percent of GDP by 2030. 

A new national carrier, Riyadh Air, will start flights next year. State-owned Saudia has also ordered new jets, and domestic airports are being privatised and opening up more routes. 

The airport hospitality company says it will invest $300 million over the next three years, including $100 million for the Middle East, focused mainly on Saudi Arabia, by opening luxury airport lounges and transit hotels. 

“Our objective is to continue to grow in all three major airports but also to bring quality and expertise in tier 2 regional airports and ambitious projects like Neom,” Isbulan said. He added that they would use art and design influenced by regional characteristics. 

Regional headquarters

Riyadh Air is planning to open its own dedicated terminal at Riyadh airport by 2030 and private airports are also opening to serve giga-project tourist resorts in Neom, AlUla and Red Sea Global. 

Plaza Premium Group will open a regional headquarters in Riyadh this year, Isbulan said. 

The government wants companies, including banks servicing lucrative debt issuances, to set up offices to help increase flagging foreign direct investment. 

Many companies are moving into the King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh or a number of other business districts around the country, including a logistics zone near Riyadh airport. 

“We’re looking for options – we might be closer to the airport since it’s our business,” Isbulan said.

“We have more than 200 staff across the kingdom but that will expand in the coming months.” 

Saudi Arabia said last month that its total number of air passengers rose 26 percent to 112 million in 2023. This includes a 46 percent rise in the total number of international travellers to 61 million. 

The number means the kingdom’s airports are approaching full capacity, which is 116 million passengers a year, including 45 million in Riyadh and 35 million in Jeddah, the Saudi Press Agency said, citing a government report. 

The number of international flights to the country rose 36 percent from the previous year to 394,000, it said. The figures appear to include all flight tickets, including transit. 

Saudi Arabia has set a target of 300 million travellers through its airports by 2030.

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