RIYADH: The 15th International Conference on Air Services Negotiations, which is affiliated with the International Civil Aviation Organization, opened in Riyadh on Sunday with the aim of working to keep pace with rapid developments in the aviation sector.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Transport and Logistics Services Saleh Al-Jasser, who is also chairman of the board of directors at the General Authority of Civil Aviation, opened the conference, which is being hosted by the GACA with the participation of industry leaders, a number of ministers, and heads of civil aviation authorities.

More than 700 experts and specialists in the aviation industry, along with delegations from more than 100 countries and organizations, are also attending the event, which takes place from Dec. 3-7.

Al-Jasser said it was the second time the Kingdom had hosted the conference, which positioned the country among leaders in the field. He also thanked the ICAO for its partnership and support in hosting the event, which is setting a new record for attendance.

He added: “This outstanding participation confirms the importance of the conference and its success in achieving its goals and in advancing the global aviation sector.”

The Kingdom’s efforts in supporting its partners across the world to grow in the transportation and logistics services sector were acknowledged, with special thanks to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Al-Jasser said that the hosting of ICAN 2023 came in light of the unlimited support the air transport sector enjoyed from them.

He added that the Kingdom’s efforts were integrated with the strategy for transport and logistics services, which aimed to connect Saudi Arabia with the rest of the world through a comprehensive, diverse and innovative transport network in accordance with the National Aviation Strategy.

The minister added that the Kingdom was intent on strengthening its cross-border relations, and that the hosting of ICAN 2023 embodied the commitment toward dialogue, and the exchange of experiences and cultures, to work to build a united and cooperative global aviation sector.

He indicated that the agreements and partnerships made at the conference would have a positive effect on the sector.

The opening ceremony announced Malaysia as the ICAN 2024 host and featured cultural performances, in the presence of Al-Jasser, GACA President Abdulaziz Al-Duailej, ICAO Council President Salvatore Sciacchitano, and heads of civil aviation authorities from various participating countries.

The GACA president said that the National Aviation Strategy aims to underline the Kingdom’s pioneering role in the field of civil aviation in the Middle East region, by attracting investments worth $100 billion and creating an exceptional travel experience for more than 330 million passengers annually by 2030.

The plan covers airports, airlines, aircraft and air service facilities, including air freight and logistics services, and offers travelers more than 250 destinations through 29 airports, with two global hubs in Riyadh and Jeddah.

This will significantly increase the volume of air freight from 0.8 million tons to 4.5 million tons by 2030, according to the GACA.

Al-Duailej noted that the GACA, as a strategic regulatory body, contributed to preparing the market by providing appropriate regulatory conditions and economic reforms to attract investment and provide growth opportunities throughout the Kingdom.

In addition, this initiative contributed to increasing competitiveness and transparency, providing more options for travelers, while achieving sustainable growth.

The GACA last November issued a new regulation to protect the rights of travelers to ensure that they received care, support and compensation for any difficulties faced on flights.

The GACA president added that the authority was keen to contribute, through its various efforts, to creating a safer and more sustainable global civil aviation system.

The authority would welcome communication, cooperation, and the exchange of experiences with various concerned parties, to build sustainable and advanced aviation systems in the Kingdom and other countries.

Sciacchitano said that the ICAN had succeeded, since its launch in 2008, in hosting more than 5,000 bilateral meetings, which had resulted in the signing of nearly 4,000 agreements and memorandums of cooperation with 160 participating countries.

He added that this year’s edition had attracted more than 95 countries and had more than 700 participants, while expectations were that the number of meetings during the event could exceed 485.

Ministers and heads of civil aviation authorities visited an exhibition which accompanies the conference. It showcases existing and future projects within the sector, and the opportunities offered, including in areas such as air mobility, space, sustainability, and advanced technologies.

The ICAN event, which is the largest of its kind for negotiating and discussing air transport affairs, aims to keep pace with rapid developments in the global air transport industry.

The conference will also witness the establishment of a ceremony to distribute the Facilities Award, hosted by the GACA, and concludes on Dec. 7, International Civil Aviation Day.