Flying High

Gulf Insider covered the Arab Aviation Summit held in Roda Al Bustan Hotel in Dubai.

Gulf Insider flew down to Dubai to attend the 7th edition of the Arab Aviation Summit inaugurated by His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group with the theme “Time to Transform”. The summit is an industry initiative committed to improving the state of travel and tourism in the Arab world by facilitating a constructive dialogue for public-private cooperation.

The initiative takes place in a different Arab city every year and is considered an ideal partnership of the three key players in the travel and tourism industry: public sector, the private sector, and the Media community.

The summit has become a catalyst for destination awareness of the host city, highlighting its travel and tourism experience while debating the challenges and opportunities that exist in the wider Arab world.

Arab Aviation: Challenges & Opportunities

Adel Al Ali, Arab Aviation Summit Chairperson and Group Chief Executive Officer of Air Arabia said “Arab aviation is highly affected by the evolving geopolitical situation, the global economy, technological developments and others.”

This year alone has seen several changes that have impacted the aviation and tourism sectors including air traffic management, rising taxes and on-ground infrastructure. These have brought about key shifts in business models driven by economic changes, consumer demand and costs pressures.

The strong growth potential of the Arab aviation and tourism sectors, despite various challenges, has been highlighted by a number of leading industry authorities. According to IATA, the Middle East’s aviation market is forecast to grow 5% annually until 2036.  Predictions demonstrate that the sector will witness an extra 322 million passengers a year on routes to, from and within the region and the total market size will expand to 517 million passengers over this period. The region gained a 5% share of the global aviation market last year, flying 206.1 million passengers –  an increase of 9.1% over 2015.

Samir Al Darabi, Director of the United Nations Information Center (UNIC) for the Gulf States said that “data from WTO proves that aviation and tourism industries in the GCC have continued to create job opportunities globally. In addition, under the UN’s ‘Change for Good’ initiative, we have contributed to international peace and well-being by donating more than 70,000 tonnes of relief supplies and 95 percent of emergency medical supplies to the needy every year”.

Dubai, a leader in aviation

Airbus’ Global Market Forecast, released this year revealed that the fleet size of operators in the Middle East is forecast to more than double from 1,250 to 3,320 aircrafts over the next two decades. By 2036, there will be 95 mega-cities, catering to 98% of the world’s long-haul services. The five megacities existing today in the Middle East will more than double to 11 over the next 20 years. The Middle East’s aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) segment is another bright spot, growing at a faster pace as compared to the global average and generating thousands of jobs. It is forecast to double by 2025, rising at 7.4% per annum to reach USD10.2 billion over the next decade.

 Abdul Wahab Teffaha, Secretary General, Arab Air Carriers Organization (AACO) said: “Developing the aviation industry, which contributes directly to economic growth, creates jobs and business opportunities in almost all sectors and this is what makes it exciting. But this will not happen by protectionism or by blocking key players from global and regional markets. As we face many present-day challenges including air traffic management, sky liberalization, raising taxes and charges and secondary airports among others, we need to work together to bring more social and economic benefits to the Arab world.

‘We need to learn from Dubai as it has created its own culture. Its government has subscribed not only to open skies but to openness in everything. We have tried protectionism and failed because it creates inefficiencies. Dubai has succeeded due to openness and the removal of the idea of protectionism.”

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