Passengers make preparations for boarding a Saudia flight at Beijing Daxing International Airport over the weekend. (Photo/China Daily)
Saudi Arabia, which launched its first direct flight to Beijing last week, said it hopes to welcome more than 4 million Chinese tourists by 2030 amid significant growth in its tourism sector.
Saudi Arabia's national flag carrier Saudia, which launched the route to the national capital on Friday, will operate four weekly flights between Jeddah and Beijing. The inaugural return flight between the two cities saw a passenger load factor of 87 percent, and most of them were Chinese passengers, the carrier said.
Previously, Guangzhou in Guangdong province was the sole Chinese destination for Saudia.
Since April, Saudia has ramped up the flight frequency to Guangzhou to five times a week.
The carrier said it plans to resume round-trip daily flights to reach the operational frequency of the pre-COVID period.
The new direct flight service to the Chinese capital is expected to help foster exchanges across trade, business, tourism, education and culture, industry players of the two countries said.
"China is a very important route for Saudia. The introduction of the new direct flights to and from Beijing not only boosts tourism, but also strengthens the overall economic and cultural ties between the two nations," said Ibrahim Al-Omar, director-general of Saudia Group.
"Tourism is a pillar of Saudi Vision 2030, and China is ranked among the top global sources of tourists. This new route will be another large step forward toward Saudi Arabia's ambitious economic diversification agenda and it can achieve much growth with more Chinese vacationers coming to the Kingdom," he said.
Alhasan Aldabbagh, president of the Asia Pacific markets at Saudi Tourism Authority, said the new direct flight service is an iconic achievement that underscores its dedication to China, a vital market for Saudi Arabia.
"Fueled by an ambitious tourism plan, which is underpinned by the Vision 2030 strategic framework, the direct flights to Beijing will help us welcome over 4 million Chinese visitors to Saudi Arabia by 2030," Aldabbagh said.
China's air travel market has boomed this summer on growing tourist demand.
Beijing Daxing International Airport has seen the number of its daily takeoffs and landings exceed 880, according to the airport.
"Currently, some 20 domestic carriers operate international flights to more than 30 global destinations. With the opening of more long-distance international air routes, the international flight market is on a steady recovery since China eased its COVID-related quarantine requirements," said Kong Yue, deputy general manager of the Daxing airport, which became operational in September 2019.
From March 2020 until its resumption earlier this year, the airport's international flights had been transferred to the Beijing Capital International Airport.
Meanwhile, as China deepens participation in the economic growth plans of the Gulf nations, more Chinese professionals, entrepreneurs and tourists are forecast to travel to the Middle East, industry insiders said.
Currently, direct flights connect a Chinese mainland city with Teheran in Iran, Riyadh in Saudi Arabia and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
In the past few months, Tuniu Corp, a Nanjing, Jiangsu province-based online travel agency, said it had received a large number of inquires from Chinese consumers about traveling to countries in the Middle East.