RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning tourism industry has taken off in a new direction with the launch of the Kingdom’s first national commercial helicopter operation.
The Helicopter Co. will provide private air transportation services within the main cities of Saudi Arabia, along with tourist trips to top attractions throughout the Kingdom.
Tourism officials in the country welcomed the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) announcement of the launch and said the service would offer an exciting new visitor experience to leisure and business travelers.
Backed by the PIF with an initial capital outlay of SR565 million ($151 million), the initiative aims to satisfy an emerging demand for luxury tourism and exploit an untapped market for urban flights, while supporting the development of the wider aviation sector.
Omar Al-Rashood, founder of the Travel Expert Agency, said flight operations within cities would help visitors get around more quickly and avoid traffic bottlenecks. “Operating helicopters will enable tourists to experience Saudi Arabia from a whole new angle and in far fewer days than by using road transport,” he said.
Al-Rashood said he had taken a helicopter tour during a business trip to Rwanda and found it a “great” way of seeing the country.
The Helicopter Co. will be able to provide access to remote parts of the Kingdom, offering a high-end experience on a par with other global destinations. Major tourist sites such as Al-Ula and the Red Sea will now be in easy reach for those wanting to avoid lengthy journeys.
Manahil Al-Mohimeed, CEO of family-run travel firm Al-Muayed Co., said the new service would offer another boost to the national tourism economy. “It has the great advantage of reducing travel times for visitors and will cater for a specific target market.”
The launch of the new helicopter company is in line with the PIF’s strategy to generate sustainable returns, establish and develop new sectors in Saudi Arabia, and support the realization of the country’s Vision 2030 reform plan by acting as a catalyst for the tourism sector.
The PIF has a wide-ranging investment portfolio in numerous sectors of the economy which stood at $300 billion in 2018.
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