x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Surging tourism and air travel boost Dubai

Passengers up by 25 per cent in a year as knock-on effect felt throughout the emirate in retail, construction and development from sustained growth in two key economic drivers.

DUBAI  // The number of passengers at Dubai International Airport has risen by 25 per cent in a year as the emirate's two traditional economic engines, airlines and tourism, surge ahead.

Nearly four million passengers used the airport last month, up from 3.1 million in the same period a year ago.

The increase was helped by Emirates building up its frequency to key destinations on the back of new aircraft deliveries, and the rapid expansion of flydubai, which launched only last summer but already has 26 destinations.

Paul Griffiths, the chief executive of Dubai Airports, said: "We are seeing expansion across the board,

"It's not only from our usual top destinations such as India, the UK, Iran and Germany, but we are also seeing significant increases in passenger traffic to and from the US, China and Australia."

An estimated 50 per cent of passengers transited through the airport en route to other countries while travelling on long haul carriers such as Emirates. The rest used the airport because the UAE was their point of origin or final destination, for residents, tourists or visiting corporate executives.

Analysts said tourism was rebounding as promotional fares in the hotel industry, driven by increased competition from new resort openings, attract price-conscious visitors.

Samir Hamadeh, the director of sales and marketing at Alpha Tours Dubai, said: "Business is going to increase as Emirates increases the passenger capacity.

"Tourism is the main industry that is supporting everything in Dubai. It's supporting taxi drivers, shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, retail outlets, construction, development. It's all linked to tourism.

The two industries have been important economic drivers in Dubai for decades since Emirates was founded in 1985, later stimulating the local tourism industry by creating the first desert safari operators.

The largest increases in passenger numbers last month were recorded on routes to and from Western Europe and the Indian subcontinent, which accounted for an additional 300,000 passengers.

GCC traffic was also boosted by an additional 141,000, and travel to Africa increased by 84,000.

By percentage gains, Eastern Europe traffic was up almost two and a half times, while travel to and from Asia and the Asia Pacific climbed by a third.

The growth will almost certainly mean another record year for the airport, with year-to-date traffic numbers up nearly five million on last year.

Dubai International is one of the fastest growing airports among major hubs. So far this year the airport is the world's 13th largest, according to Airports Council International. However, measured by international travel, it is the sixth largest for passengers and fourth for cargo.

Last month cargo volumes grew for the 12th consecutive month, with September traffic up 11.3 per cent, to 187,000 tonnes.

Because of this sustained growth, Dubai is planning for the future and wants to expand its second airport in Jebel Ali, Al Maktoum International, to make it large enough to serve as the future home for Emirates and the 130 carriers serving Dubai International.

The growth may also heighten concerns among European airlines that Europe is losing its status as a global transport hub, and that governments should develop a strategy to counter the threat from the Middle East.

The Air France chief executive, Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, said last week: "Europe is at the crossroads of international air travel, and this is a role we need to value and defend."

The resistance has led to UAE airlines facing difficulties in expanding into some European destinations.