Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (Gaca) has confirmed it plans to tender the design, finance, build and operate contract for the Taif International airport in 2017.

A request for proposal (RFP) will be issued in 2017 with the target completion date set for 2020, Gaca said in a statement.

Tareq al-Abduljabar, assistant to the president for airports at Gaca, said he expects several international joint ventures to compete for the contract. He added that they have been “coordinating with relevant government agencies to overcome obstacles and complete the project infrastructure.”

The airport public-private partnership (PPP) scheme reached the prequalification stage earlier this year before it was put on hold. The Washington-based International Finance Corporation (IFC) was advising Gaca on the scheme.

Gaca said the new airport will be located northeast of Taif Province near Souk Okaz, which is about 120 kilometres from Mecca. The planned Taif International airport is envisaged to include terminals that are “designed in accordance to standard (C) and as approved by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).”

The new airport will have a design capacity for up to five million passengers annually and will eventually reach eight million passengers in future, according to Gaca. The airport will initially include one runway extending 4,300 metres, which can accommodate code F aircraft, with a provision for a second runway if required.

“The new Taif airport will be considered the new gateway for hajj and umrah and is consistent with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, where it expects the number of annual pilgrims to the kingdom to reach 30 million,” the statement said.

Gaca also said it has supplied the Road Sector within the Transport Ministry with the coordinates of the planned new airport in Taif, so it can be linked to the future road networks. A study has also been launched to calculate the new airport’s water and electricity demand. Gaca said it is working with relevant authorities for the provision of related telecoms and information and communication technology infrastructure.

It is understood the existing domestic airport in Taif will remain in operation, with Gaca planning to sign a concession for its operation and management separately.

The aviation regulator said it has also received on 12 December the land allocated for a new domestic airport at Qunfudhah in the northern area of Mecca.