According to the latest research conducted by Colliers International ahead of the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2019, more than 63 per cent of the 89 million travellers who passed through Dubai International Airport (DXB) in 2018 were in transit, with only eight per cent of the passengers leaving the airport to explore the emirate.
As Dubai targets 20 million annual visitors by 2020, along with an additional five million between October 2020 and April 2021 for Expo 2020, a number of initiatives have been set in motion to increase stopover tourism, such as new transit visas and dedicated tourism packages.
Speaking on the subject was exhibition director ME, ATM, Danielle Curtis: “Last year, the UAE introduced a new transit visa allowing all transit passengers an exemption from entry fees for 48 hours with the option to extend up to 96 hours for $14. This visa is not only good for the country’s tourism sector but for the local economy as a whole, enticing passengers to view their transit not as an unwanted delay in their travels, but as a good opportunity to add value to their trip and experience everything the UAE has to offer.”
According to IATA, the Middle East is forecast to see an extra 290 million air passengers on routes to, from and within the region by 2037, with the total market size increasing to 501 million passengers during the same period.
Adding to this, figures from ATM 2018 show the number of delegates interested in buying airline products and services increased 13 per cent between 2017 and 2018.
“This projected growth underscores Dubai, and of course the Middle East, as the ideal location to bring together professionals from the aviation and tourism industry for our inaugural CONNECT Middle East, India and Africa forum, which will be co-located alongside ATM 2019,” Curtis added.
The success of the aviation industry in the sky is matched in the GCC and wider MENA region by the continued huge infrastructure investment.
The total value of 195 active aviation-related projects in the Middle East reached almost $50 billion in 2018, according to research provider BNC Network.
The various airport investments under way include $8.2 billion to develop Al Maktoum International Airport, $7.6 billion for phase four of DXB and $6.8 billion for the development and expansion of Abu Dhabi International Airport. In addition, Sharjah Airport is also undergoing a $408.4 million investment in expansion of its terminal.
Curtis concluded: “With two thirds of the world’s population within an eight-hour flight from the GCC, it is an ideal base for exploring some of the world’s most interesting and previously inaccessible corners of the world. And the GCC’s airlines are making it even easier with the continuous addition of new and direct flight routes.”