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Saudi airports operator issues tender for Abha expansion

Mountains in Saudi Arabia's Aseer province. The region is served by Abha airport RSM Chrystie/Creative Commons
Mountains in Saudi Arabia's Aseer province. The region is served by Abha airport
  • 30-year contract offered
  • 8m passengers a year by 2030
  • Gateway to Aseer region

Saudi Arabia’s state-owned airport operator has issued a tender for a new terminal at Abha International Airport in the Aseer region.

The Civil Aviation Holding Company, also known as Matarat, has called for expressions of interest by the end of this month.

On offer is a 30-year build-operate-transfer deal to develop and run the terminal. The Saudi authorities are working to increase tourist numbers to Aseer and the expanded airport is expected to serve 8 million passengers annually by 2030 and 13 million by 2054.

The airport’s current capacity is about 1.5 million passengers. The new terminal is scheduled to open by 2028 and will be built in up to three phases.

The tender also includes the construction of aircraft parking and roads to the terminal, along with changes to the runway and supporting facilities such as a power plant and a wastewater treatment plant. 

The expanded airport will have 20 gates and 41 check-in counters, plus seven self-service check-in counters, according to the tender document.

The plans to increase capacity at Abha airport follow the busiest year on record for passenger traffic in Saudi Arabia – with 101 million passengers carried through to November, surpassing the 2019 total of 99 million passengers. 

Saudi Arabia is now connected to 149 destinations globally, a 41 percent increase on 2019, according to the General Authority of Civil Aviation.

The Saudi aviation strategy has set targets of 330 million passengers, 250 destinations and a cargo capacity of 4.5 million tonnes by 2030. 

The south-west region of Aseer is a key component in the kingdom’s tourism ambitions.

“Aseer is positioned to flourish economically and become a popular tourist destination with the backing of the Saudi government and private investors,” Vijay Valecha, chief investment officer at Century Financial, told AGBI last month.

“The goal of Saudi Vision 2030 is to raise the tourism industry’s economic share of GDP from 3 percent to 10 percent. Investing in Aseer is a significant step in the right direction,” he added.

The government wants to make the province a “haven for adventure seekers”, according to Invest Saudi, its investment promotion platform.

Aseer is hoping to attract foodies too – it has been named world region of gastronomy for 2024.

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