Nasair, the low cost carrier airline based in Saudi Arabia, on Sunday said it has launched a second route to Pakistan in a bid to grow its share of the religious tourism market.
The airline will operate four weekly flights to Lahore from Riyadh and three weekly flights from Jeddah, targeting the nearly 200,000 pilgrims who enter Saudi Arabia from Pakistan each year.
“Servicing the thriving markets in Karachi, and now Lahore, is an important step in our route expansion,” said Turki Al Jawini, director of sales.
An estimated 2.5 million Muslims undertook the annual hajj pilgrimage in 2010. The total number of tourists to the holy cities of Makkah and Medina is expected to rise from 12 million a year to almost 17 million by 2025.
Saudi Arabia’s Commission for Tourism and Antiquities said in November it expected revenue from tourism to reach $17.6bn in 2010 and almost double again by 2015.
Nasair’s parent company NAS Holding said in January it would launch a hajj and umrah unit to weave air fares into the pilgrimages organised by local travel firms for tourists.
In December, Nasair said it would be fully profitable by the close of the year and would look to undertake an initial public offering after two years of profit.
Nasair is a subsidiary of National Air Services (NAS Holding), which is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The company is part owned by Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding Company.