Dubai International Airport will see a 12 per cent increase in passenger traffic this year, but will fall short of its annual forecast by two million passengers as the financial crisis dampens international air travel. The airport, the seventh-busiest in the world in terms of international passenger traffic, will not meet its initial projections of 40 million passengers, according to an official at the airport. "It is expected that 38 million passengers will travel through the Dubai International Airport as against the 34 million last year," said Colm McLoughlin, the managing director of Dubai Duty Free, the state-owned airport retailer, while speaking at an event celebrating the company's 25th anniversary. This would make for a 12 per cent increase this year in passenger numbers, instead of the expected 18 per cent. Last year, traffic at Dubai International increased 19 per cent. Although official figures will not be released until mid-January, Mr McLoughlin's statement is the latest in a number of accounts citing the effect of the slowing global economy on the UAE's travel and tourism trade. A recent study by the consulting firm Deloitte predicted growth in holiday travel into the UAE would slow to 5 per cent this year, down from 15 per cent last year. The biggest effect of the shortfall at Dubai International could be felt by Emirates Airline, which operates the majority of flights in and out of the airport. But slowing growth is not limited only to Dubai. According to Airports Council International, six of the top 10 airports for international traffic registered negative monthly growth in August, the most recent date available. Dubai was among the four hubs which did grow, increasing passenger numbers 2.8 per cent compared with August last year. And yesterday, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the 35 airlines of the Middle East saw traffic increase by 5.6 per cent - a gain from 3.5 per cent growth in October, "but a step-change from the double-digit expansion that characterised growth prior to the current financial crisis". The Middle East was one of the emerging markets that fared better overall, according to IATA. Airlines in the Asia-Pacific region had the most severe dip in international passenger traffic, with a decline of 9.7 per cent last month and a drop of 6.1 per cent in October. Also hard hit were carriers in North America, where international traffic fell by 4.8 per cent, and Europe, where international air travel slumped 3.4 per cent. "The industry is now shrinking by all measures," said Giovanni Bisignani, the director general and chief executive at IATA. "The 1.0 per cent capacity cut in international passenger markets in November could not keep pace with the 4.6 per cent fall in passenger demand. We can expect deep losses in the fourth quarter," Mr Bisignani said. IATA said November international passenger load factors - or the percentage of seats filled per plane - stood at 72.7 per cent, a drop of three percentage points on the same month last year. email@example.com
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