Travel Industry News at since 1997
Sun, 29 October 2023

Saudi Arabia's Air Connectivity Program - Interview with Sultan Otaify, VP Strategy & Communication

(29/10/23)  There are very few business sectors where the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not currently making huge waves, and travel and tourism is no different.

The Kingdom has set itself some extremely ambitious goals, aiming to welcome 100 million visitor arrivals by 2030, supported by an aviation strategy that includes US$100 billion in investment from the government and private sector.

In just the first three months of 2023, Saudi Arabia reported a surplus in the balance of payments for travel items of Saudi Riyal (SR) 22.8 billion (approximately US$6 billion), compared to a Q1 2022 deficit of SR1.6 billion (approximately US$426.7 million).

Sultan Otaify, Vice President Strategy & Communication, Air Connectivity Program (ACP), Saudi Arabia. Click to enlarge.
Sultan Otaify, Vice President Strategy & Communication, Air Connectivity Program (ACP), Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Tourism has said that the surplus was achieved thanks to around SR37 billion (US$9.868 billion) of incoming tourism revenue, an increase of about 225% when compared to the first quarter of 2022, as per Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) data.

This substantial increase in tourism revenue reflects not only the global recovery in air travel post-Covid, but also a culmination of the Kingdom’s many efforts to boost the tourism sector and consequently the national economy.

The ambitious tourism strategy has advanced the Kingdom 16 places in the international tourism revenue index, with Saudi Arabia reaching 11th place globally in 2022, up from 27th in 2019, and advancing to 13th place in IATA's Air Connectivity index for 2023, up also from 27th.

The Kingdom welcomed about 7.8 million tourists during the first quarter of 2023, achieving a growth of 64% compared to the same period in 2019, the highest quarterly performance thus far. That impressive statistic means that the Kingdom achieved second place globally in the growth rate of international tourists as per the World Tourism Organization’s data issued in May 2023.

Managing such rapid growth is going to require not only vision, but the ability for each sector to work seamlessly together in achieving each other's goals. One example of this is Saudi Arabia's Air Connectivity Program (ACP) which is already working with local and international airlines in Europe, Asia, North America and Africa.

To learn more about ACP and what role it plays in helping Saudi Arabia to not only achieve, but potentially surpass its tourism and aviation goals, Steven Howard of sat down with Sultan Otaify, ACP's Vice President Strategy & Communication, during the recent Routes World 2023 conference and exhibition in Istanbul, Türkiye.

In this interview, filmed on 17 October, Sultan explains why ACP was attending Routes World, what they expected to get out of the event, and what ACP brings to the table.

We discuss what goals Saudi Arabia has for 2024, how the Kingdom is working to grow air connectivity, and how Saudi Arabia is expanding visa facilitation.

Sultan also tells us about the airports in Saudi Arabia, how they are making use of technology to enhance the overall air travel experience, what development plans they have, why being 'China Ready' is important, and what achieving their aviation and tourism targets means to the Kingdom and people of Saudi Arabia. All that and much more in the HD video and podcast below.

Saudi Arabia's Air Connectivity Program - Interview with Sultan Otaify, VP Strategy & Communication


Routes World 2024 will take place in Bahrain from 6 to 8 October.

See Videos from Routes World 2023 in Istanbul, Türkiye, including:  Love The Philippines - Interview with Warner M. Andrada, OIC-Assistant Secretary of Tourism Development, DOT Philippines, Saudi Arabia's Air Connectivity Program - Interview with Sultan Otaify, VP Strategy & Communication, Malaysia Airports Video Interview with Megat, Senior General Manager - Strategy, Skyscanner Interview with Michael Docherty, Commercial Director, Airports in Sweden - Interview with Elizabeth Axtelius, Director Aviation Business, Swedavia, Singapore Changi Airport - Interview with Peh Ke-Wei, Vice President of Passenger and Air Hub Development, Changi Airport Group (CAG), Airports in Scotland - Interview with Gary Cox, Director of Aviation at Transport Scotland, JFK T6 - Interview with Steve Thody, COO of JFK Millennium Partners, Tourism Malaysia Video Interview with Datuk Musa Bin Yusof of MTPB, Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Philippines - Video Interview with CEO, Julius Neri Jr., Helsinki Airport (HEL) - Interview with Ulla Lettijeff, SVP and Director, Suvarnabhumi Airport's (BKK) New Satellite Terminal - Interview with Paweena Jariyathitipong, Airports of Thailand, Korea Airports Corporation - Video Interview with Soowan Seo, Finavia Lapland - Interview with Jani Jolkkonen, SVP Airport Network, and Beijing Daxing Airport (PKX) - Interview with Deputy GM Aviation Business; plus 16 Exclusive HD Video Interviews from Routes Europe 2024 in Aarhus, Denmark; 9 Exclusive HD Video Interviews from Routes Asia 2024 in Langkawi, Malaysia; 15 Exclusive HD Video Interviews from Routes World 2023 in Istanbul, Türkiye.

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