The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has welcomed the commitment of Saudi Arabia to further reopen borders and resume international air connectivity.
Saudi Arabia has taken measures to ease travel restrictions to the Kingdom and enhance passenger facilitation with the necessary health protocols to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, by opening up the Kingdom for tourists, stopping quarantine for vaccinated travelers, expanding the facilitation of religious traffic to the holy cities, reinstating visa processing for international passengers and enhancing systems and health measures across all airports.
IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and Middle East Kamil Al Awadhi said: “We welcome the recent steps taken by Saudi Arabia to restore air travel and enhance the passenger experience during a challenging time for aviation. Saudi Arabia recognizes aviation as a catalyst for economic growth and modernization, and we are pleased to see the Kingdom’s continued prioritization of aviation as a key to achieving Vision 2030.
“After more than one year of border closures, the kick-off of the National Aviation Strategy will bring to life plans to triple the number of passengers to the Kingdom and fly to 250 destinations.”
Restoring connectivity is key to speeding up the recovery of the Kingdom’s international market as passenger demand is not expected to return to 2019 levels before 2024, a IATA statement said.
Al Awadhi continued: “Prior to the pandemic, Saudi Arabia was one of the most connected countries regionally and internationally in the Middle East. The impact of the crisis has been significant, with a 96 per cent fall in connectivity compared to before the pandemic.
“The recent measures to open borders and ease travel restrictions are essential to restoring Saudi Arabia’s connectivity as well as realizing the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.”
The kingdom also issued directives to allow direct entry of fully vaccinated expatriates from countries facing travel ban. This includes those foreigners who have a valid residency permit (iqama) and left the Kingdom on exit and re-entry visa after taking two doses of vaccine against coronavirus from Saudi Arabia. Currently, countries facing the travel ban are India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, UAE, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Lebanon.