The announcement that Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea International (RSI) Airport will open by the end of the year has prompted an increase in transport and tourism jobs across the Kingdom, GlobalData research revealed.

Red Sea Global, the developer behind the ambitious six-runway airport – and numerous other Saudi tourism projects – recently chose Saudia as the first airline to fly in and out of RSI Airport.

Construction of the airport is already underway. Initially, only domestic flights to and from Riyadh, and later Jeddah, will be available before the airport takes on international flights midway through 2024.

This flurry of activity has coincided with a rise in transport and tourism-related jobs in Saudi Arabia. Analysis by GlobalData showed a 32.9% increase in transport jobs from August 2022 to August 2023.

Vision 2030: Saudi to rival the UAE and Qatar?

Middle Eastern and international-hub aviation markets have long been dominated by neighbouring Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Well-established cross-continent routes have seen the likes of Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways grow credibility and, consequently, superior revenues to Saudia.

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Saudia looks to challenge these nearby competitors through the RSI Airport deal, although it will arguably lose this competitive advantage when the airport opens to international airlines.

The RSI project is merely one strand of Crown Prince Mohamed bin-Salman’s elaborate ‘Vision 2030’ plan, which aims to market Saudi Arabia as a global tourism destination.

The sovereign-owned Public Investment Fund (PIF) in charge of financing Vision 2030 said its objectives are job creation and economic diversification away from Saudi’s long-standing dependence on oil production.

Others have highlighted ulterior motives. PIF’s unprecedented investments across boxing, soccer, motor racing, golf and horse racing have led to allegations of ‘sportswashing’ by human rights groups.

Amnesty International has been particularly critical of sporting icons such as Cristiano Ronaldo promoting the Kingdom’s tourism scene on social media – a stipulation in his $200m per year contract with Al-Nassr Football Club.

The RSI Airport project follows a similar trend. It has attracted international collaboration, with the design overseen by British architecture firm Foster and Partners in what Saudi Arabia hopes will be one of many transport and tourism deals involving foreign partners under Vision 2030.

Our signals coverage is powered by GlobalData’s Thematic Engine, which tags millions of data items across six alternative datasets — patents, jobs, deals, company filings, social media mentions and news — to themes, sectors and companies. These signals enhance our predictive capabilities, helping us to identify the most disruptive threats across each of the sectors we cover and the companies best placed to succeed.