Stock Saudi airport
Saudi passengers prepare to check-in for flights at the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah. Image Credit: AP file

Cairo: The number of passengers who used Saudi Arabia’s airports last year hit 88 million, up 82 per cent against 2021, according to official figures.

The kingdom’s General Authority for Statistics said the King Abdulaziz airport in Jeddah took the lead in traveller traffic last year with 32 million.

Flights, meanwhile, increased by 41 per cent last year compared to 2021 with the Saudi national carrier Saudia getting the biggest share with nearly 283,000 flights.

The number of male workers in air transport last year reached 28,000, an increase of 38 per cent against 2021 while the female workers numbered around 4,000, with a 70 per cent rise.

Saudi Arabia has in recent years launched a slew of initiatives to diversify its oil-independent economy, including boosting its air transport and tourism sectors.

Some 16.5 million tourists visited the kingdom last year, an increase of 94 per cent compared to the pre-epidemic time, according to official figures.

The kingdom aims to receive 25 million foreign tourists in 2023.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has sought to draw more foreign tourists to the country, offering a set of facilities including the issuance of tourist visas on arrival or online for citizens of several nationalities.

Saudi Arabia has recently introduced the stopover transit visa, allowing air passengers to obtain an entry visa.

The four-day visa allows the holder to perform Umrah (minor pilgrimage), visit the Prophet Mohammed’s Mosque in the holy city of Medina and tour tourism sites in the kingdom.

The free-of-charge transit visa is issued instantly with the passenger’s ticket and is valid for three months.