Dubai will surpass London, Paris and Hong Kong in 2015 to become the world's largest hub for international travel, executives from Dubai Airports said yesterday.
Passenger traffic at Dubai International Airport is forecast to increase by 7.2 per cent a year until 2020 and air freight by 6.7 per cent a year over the same period, according to an analysis by the operator, Dubai Airports.
The forecast increase is greater than the 5.3 per cent annualised growth that the aircraft manufacturer Boeing has forecast for air travel in the Middle East region over the next two decades.
"Based on the current pace of growth we are seeing in other large international airports, Dubai International should become the busiest airport in the world for international passenger traffic as early as 2015 when passenger numbers are projected to exceed 75 million," said Paul Griffiths, the chief executive of Dubai Airports.
Freight at the airport declined slightly in March and passenger volumes grew by just over 5 per cent in a month where global air travel suffered because of unrest in parts of the Middle East coupled with the crisis caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
"The profile of the recovery in air transport sharply decelerated in March," said Giovanni Bisignani, the chief executive of the International Air Transport Association (Iata). "The global industry lost 2 percentage points of demand as a result of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa."
According to Iata, the disruptions in the Middle East and North Africa cut international travel by 0.9 of a percentage point.
Egypt and Tunisia experienced traffic levels that were 10 to 25 per cent below normal for March, while military action in Libya "virtually stopped civil aviation to, from and within that country".
Nevertheless, officials in Dubai and the wider region said the long-term prospect for regional aviation was excellent.
"Increased liberalisation, GDP growth and increasingly affluent and mobile populations in emerging markets will combine to propel air travel growth worldwide," Mr Griffiths said. "We are eight hours from two thirds of the world's population and on the doorstep of two of the most dynamic markets in the world - India and China."