by Kevin Rozario (London, United Kingdom)
A new greenfield airport in the Middle East passed a key milestone in January when Ireland’s daa International was awarded the contract to operate the gateway which is now under construction. At this tricky time for the aviation business, the news is a welcome sign that faith in the travel and tourism business remains – and a revival in its fortunes will come.
The airport contract was awarded by the The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC), which is behind a large-scale luxury tourism destination being built over 28,000 square kilometres on Saudi Arabia’s west coast (see end panel). TRSDC is a closed joint-stock company wholly-owned by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia with assets of almost $400 billion at the time of writing.
The first phase of the whole project – including the airport – is due to be completed by the end of 2022 when visitors are expected to start arriving. At this point up to 3,000 hotel rooms, recreational facilities and residential properties will have been built.
The international airport will be like no other. As the main gateway to a brand-new luxury tourism area, all its passengers will be either going to or coming from the resort. As such the airport will be more like a VIP terminal, just bigger, and cater to the needs of a rich and demanding customer base from all over the world.
While the airline plan is not finalised, the resort airport will accommodate transfers from major hub airports domestically and from international airports. A mix of scheduled and charter traffic is expected, plus some private aircraft given the ultra-premium nature of the resort.