Saudi Arabia is set to relaunch the privatisation plan for its airports as part of its initiative to diversify its economy by reducing dependence on crude oil exports.

According to the General Authority of Civil Aviation president Abdulaziz Al Duailej, ownership of the 29 airports was shifted to a new entity, called Matarat, to prepare them for the process, reported Bloomberg.

On the sidelines of the Saudi Future of Aviation Forum in Riyadh, Al Duailej stated: “I will not wait until 2030 to privatise the whole sector.”

According to the publication, a global investor roadshow is expected to commence in the coming 12 to 18 months.

The plan is expected to help Riyadh become a global business centre by attracting 330 million visitors a year by 2030.

Under the plan, Saudi Arabia intends to launch a new international airline, which will operate out of Riyadh. It will be owned by the country’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), and be separate from the current flag carrier, Saudia.

The strategy also includes the construction of a new airport in Riyadh, which will be owned by the PIF as well.

Furthermore, plans are underway to raise the number of direct destinations served from the country to 250, from the roughly 100 that are currently served.

Saudi Arabia previously tried to privatise its airports in 2017, when it appointed investment bank Goldman Sachs to divest an interest in Riyadh’s King Khalid International hub, but the plan was later abandoned.