The WIB | Middle East | 17.11

Welcome to our WIB (week in brief), a round-up of important events, news and developments around the Middle East. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team.


Dubai Airshow – 13-17th November 2023

Country spotlight | Saudi Tourism 

Saudi Arabia is now targeting 150m visitors to the Kingdom by 2030 instead of the 100m initially announced, distributed more or less equally between domestic and international travelers. Announcing this change at a session of the Future Investment Forum in October 2023, Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Minister for Tourism said the government expected to reach the 100m target by the end of 2023 with tourism on track to contribute 6% to GDP against the 10% targeted by the end of 2030. The passenger target remains at 330m passengers.

These figures are rooted partly in an ‘if you build it they will come’ investment strategy worth US$800b and the very real possibility of a doubling of international travelers by 2033 on the basis of a rapidly expanding middle class in India and China, the world’s two most populous countries (forecast by World Tourism and Travel Council). 

Industry leaders are lining up to offer their support. This week we highlight Boeing’s work as an example of how to build relationships and do business in the region. To be sure the commercial opportunities are enormous as evidenced by the multiple orders being placed by not just Saudia and Riyadh Air but also Flynas which has just ordered its first Dreamliner. But so are the non-transactional opportunities which in the long-term will deliver growth for both parties. 

Company Spotlight | Boeing’s long-term commitment to Saudi Arabia + Vision 2030

At the Dubai Airshow in November 2023, Dr Brendan Nelson, VP Boeing Global,  highlighted the company’s commitment to supporting Saudi Arabia in realizing its ambitions as an aviation industry leader but also in reaching much broader targets across talent development, training and recruitment. 

The company is developing a talent pipeline by running recruitment and training programs for locals; has set up the KIngdom’s first private university, Al-Faisal University in collaboration with King Faisal Foundation and has joined the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) industrial collaboration program. As a corollary it is supporting efforts to improve STEM education and encourage young people to explore opportunities in the aerospace industry. Additionally, almost all of the 2,200 employees working at Boeing-Saudi are Saudi nationals.

It has invested in multiple R&D relationships and joint venture programs with entities across the Kingdom to work on plans to decarbonize the aviation industry and develop sustainable solutions. It is also planning to invest in manufacturing plants for aluminum, titanium and advanced plastics. 

Boeing has been supporting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for over 75 years; most recently with localization efforts. It has JVs and partnerships with Saudi Aerospace Engineering Industries (SAEI), Al-salam Aerospace Industries and Saudi Arabia Military Industries to build maintenance and repair (MRO) facilities for fixed and rotary-wing military and civil aircraft.

Airline Spotlight | Saudia and Riyadh Air

Saudi Arabia’s national airlines, Saudia and Riyadh Air have signed an expansive strategic agreement to work collaboratively to strengthen the national aviation ecosystem. The benefits will include codeshare services, merged loyalty programs and follow flights for domestic and international passengers. More importantly, the partnership will enable the two airlines to expand their range of routes, destinations and services, and explore synergies and efficiencies across the aviation value chain including commercial operations, digital development, aviation support services as well as cargo and logistics. Overall, the agreement has the potential to enhance the competitiveness of Saudi Arabian air travel by enabling the airlines to start working towards reducing costs, boosting efficiencies and leveraging synergies.  

Opportunities | Wellness Tourism

Wellness tourism, an emerging industry niche, worth around US$5.6T in 2022 will, according to estimates by the Global Wellness Institute, be worth around US$8.5 trillion by 2027. The Middle East has historically been an important destination for wellness travelers (accounting for 18% of the world market in 2022) but post-pandemic demand has skyrocketed. Countries in the region have been investing in the infrastructure, facilities, crowd control and staff training needed to manage the coming influx of tourists. With 61% of Emiratis and 73% of Saudi’s planning a wellness vacation, both countries are building lush resorts and stunning spas to persuade them to rest closer to home. One to watch. 

Visit our insight pages for more information about industry trends and developments in MENA aviation, or get in touch to find out more about our aviation advisory services in Saudi Arabia, the GCC and the greater Middle East. 

Photo by Stephane YAICH on Unsplash

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