Wednesday 28, October 2015

Dubai – MENA Herald: Development in the region’s dynamic aviation sector will once again be a major talking point at Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2016, as Gulf airlines look to capitalize on their strategic location, connecting East and West.  

It has been an extremely strong performance over the last 18 months for the region’s aviation sector with Gulf airlines in particular showing the strongest passenger growth in the world according to International Air Transport Association (IATA) statistics, following an 11.7% year-on-year rise in traffic to August 2015, which is now beginning to manifest itself at ATM.

Earlier this year Arabian Travel Market 2015 witnessed robust airline activity, with 27 carriers represented, including regional heavyweights Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, as well as Lufthansa, British Airways and Turkish Airlines. There was also a strong showing from the low cost carriers including flydubai, Air Arabia and Nasair.

“The amount of space that we dedicate to aviation has been steadily rising since 2012, which has grown almost 32% over the past four years to reach well in excess of 2,000 square metres. This figure doesn’t even include what we call ‘stand sharing companies’, where companies choose to participate by sharing stand space, for example, Air Arabia decided to participate at ATM 2015 with the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority,” said Nadege Noblet-Segers, Exhibition Manager of Arabian Travel Market, which takes place at the Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre, on 25 – 28 April 2016.

Since June 2015 Emirates has announced improved frequencies and also new routes to Boston, Orlando, Chicago, Bali, Mashad (Iran), Bamako (Mali), as well as Panama City, the longest non-stop flight in the world in a westerly direction. Etihad Airways has opened up new routes to Edinburgh and Madrid and next year Qatar Airways will fly to Sydney, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Boston.

“The low cost airlines are not being left behind either, flydubai now operates 110 routes and will carry 8.9 million passengers this year. Air Arabia now connects Casablanca with Montpellier (France) and Naples (Italy) and Marrakesh with Frankfurt. In addition the Sharjah-based carrier is now extending its reach to Urumqi in China,” added Noblet-Segers.

Other regional statistics support the bullish sentiment toward aviation growth forecasts, when demand and wealth dynamics are considered. According to the World Bank, the MENA region population is more than 331 million with an annual growth rate of 1.73% in 2013.

“That’s 5.7 million people per annum, or to put it another way, the equivalent of the population of Riyadh. And with 31% of the MENA population still under 15 years, it will continue to grow and it will continue to travel,” added Noblet-Segers.

In terms of wealth, the per capita income for the UAE according to the World Bank in 2014 was still more than US$44,000, comfortably within the top 10% of richest nations, behind Qatar ($97K) and Kuwait ($49K), but ahead of Bahrain ($25K), Saudi Arabia ($24K) and Oman ($19K).   

Recent YouGov data would also support those figures, which revealed that more than one-third of MENA residents (36%) are planning to increase their leisure travel over the next year, with 15% anticipating a big increase in outbound travel.

The same research also showed a similar trend for business travel with 33% of MENA-based passengers reportedly taking one or more short-haul leisure trips over the previous 12 months, out of which 10% made three or further trips by air.

The ATM 2015 seminars also attracted some of the world’s leading aviation experts and industry leaders, such as John Strickland, Director, JLS Consulting, who was in conversation with Martin Bentrott, Vice President Sales, The Middle East, Russia & Central Asia for Boeing, as well as one-on-one sessions with Tim Clark, President, Emirates and Akbar Al Baker, Group Chief Executive, Qatar Airways.

“More could be done to generate additional air passengers, the open skies issue and GCC-wide visas for example are sure to be hot topics for discussion once again during the ATM 2016 aviation seminars,” added Noblet-Segers.

In terms of infrastructure, the region is building one of the most comprehensive transport infrastructures on earth. Dubai World Central will receive US$ 32 billion in investment and will accommodate 220 million passengers. The new Doha Hamad International Airport in Qatar, can now handle 30 million passengers and Abu Dhabi is anticipating more than 20 million passengers within the next few years.

ATM 2016 will build on the success of this year’s edition with the announcement of an additional hall as Reed Travel Exhibitions looks to add to its record-breaking achievements earlier this year. ATM 2015 witnessed a year-on-year visitor attendance increase of 12% to over 26,000, with exhibiting companies increasing by 5% to 2,873. Business deals worth more than US$2.5 billion were signed over the four days.

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