Middle East aviation industry gearing up for region’s largest airports event

2013 show expected to be 20percent larger than previous event.

- Dubai, UAE

Airport Show 2013, the Middle East’s largest event dedicated to airport technologies, operations and infrastructure, is set to grow this year when it takes place in May, building on the success of its last edition and the continued multi-billion dollar investments across the regional airports sector.

Despite the global economic slowdown, the region’s aviation sector continued to grow amid stormy headwinds. The aviation industry, which contributes $22 billion, or 28 per cent to Dubai’s gross domestic product, also plays a key role in diversifying the emirate’s economy.

That’s why the UAE – a country with a population of less than 8 million, is served by five national airlines that are all growing. Dubai is investing Dh28 billion while Abu Dhabi is investing Dh25 billion in expanding their airport capabilities – part of the $190 billion (Dh700 billion) airport development activities in the region.

The Middle East continues to allocate large investments for developing new and existing airports at a cost of over Dh437 billion ($119 billion). An additional Dh106 billion in various segments of this sector is under the consideration of industry experts in Middle East. Meanwhile, passenger traffic in the GCC has grown at a CAGR of 10% between 2002 and 2010, significantly higher than the global average of between 1% and 3%. 

His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA), Chairman of Dubai Airports, and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates airline & Group, said, aviation is now established as a vital contributor to the UAE’s economy, contributing more than Dh145 billion ($39.47bn) or 14.7 per cent to the national GDP.

This contribution is projected to grow further in the coming years and as such justifies the country's huge investment in airports and airline networks. Aviation and logistics have had a major impact on other economic sectors such as tourism, hospitality, trade and finance, and activity in one spurs growth in the others,” he said.

Middle East Airports are expected to handle over 400 million passengers by 2020. Earlier this year, Director General ACI World, Angela Gittens said, “Within 20 years, traffic is forecast to double and governments and private investors must now build the capacity needed, without further delay to plan for this expansion and modernization. Governments and private investors must not shy about committing to infrastructure investment that is so crucially linked to economic development.”

Airport Show 2013 hopes of achieving a significant growth when it takes off on May 6th at the Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre (DICEC).

This year’s event will showcase the latest technologies in the airports industry, and attract airport and aviation professionals from around the world. A two-day international conference titled Global Airport Leaders’ Forum, will also take place along the sidelines of the show, offering the industry a platform to address the global challenges that it faces and encourage cross border partnerships and cooperation.

The Forum will act as a global industry meeting of CEOs and experts to generate solutions, drive improvement and innovation to overcome shared policy, security, technology, capacity, environment and business growth challenges for continued airport expansion and passenger satisfaction. It will address leadership strategies and provide insights into how to develop collaborative aviation policies, and position airports as engines for national economic growth. The forum will also develop themes of future planning and innovation, and topics for discussion will include sustainability, technology and management.

Airport Show 2013 assumes greater significance with a large number of debuting and returning exhibitors, new national pavilions and a dedicated Airport Passenger Experience (APE) area, showcasing the latest cutting edge technologies from around the world. It will see Germany, Switzerland, France and China participate with national pavilions as before, and Malaysia is coming in with a national pavilion for the first time. The 2012 event attracted 211 exhibitors from 32 countries.


Dubai is currently executing its planned investment of $7.73bn (Dhs28.4bn) to implement the fourth phase of Dubai Airport expansion and increase its capacity to over 90 million passengers annually to meet the future growth needs. Dubai’s air passenger traffic has doubled in the last five years, and its airport is now the world’s fourth largest.

Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) is ploughing in a similar amount $6.8 billion (Dh25 billion) to expand annual capacity to 40 million passengers – the project is expected to be completed by 2015-2016.

Even the smaller UAE airports are investing in order to boost facilities and expansion. Sharjah plans to spend $136m (Dhs500m), while Fujairah has set aside $43.5m (Dhs160m).

Organizers said the growth of the Airport Show reflects the UAE’s own growth in the sector. According to a recent report by Centre for Aviation (CAPA), published in November 2012, the UAE has experienced a decade of relentless aviation growth. Willie Walsh, head of International Airlines Group, parent of British Airways and Iberia recently warned the House of Commons Transport Committee that Heathrow would be overtaken by Dubai as the world’s biggest international airport “within two to three years”.

He pointed out that in 2001, Dubai barely made it to the Top 100 airports worldwide, ranking as the 99th biggest international airport in the world, whereas by 2010 it was in the 13th position and by 2012, it was third.

GCC Airports

On the regional front, Saudi Arabia has signed a deal to invest approximately Dh27 billion on the new airport project in Jeddah, while expansions are also in place in Riyadh and other regional airports. In Oman, the Muscat and Salalah airports are being developed at a total cost of Dh1.2 billion to handle 48 to 10 million passengers, annually.

Kuwait has just unveiled a whopping US $6 billion expansion plan with a plan to expand the airport's capacity from 6 million passengers per year to 20 million passengers per year and turn the airport into a major passenger and cargo hub, while Qatar has announced plans to spend another US$2 billion in addition to the US$15.5 billion already allocated for the Doha airport expansion.

Commenting on the rising potential of the MENA region as a global aviation hub, Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO pointed out that “The MENA region is a growing force in aviation. For example, over the last decade, the Middle East share of global international traffic has risen from about 5% to about 11.5%.”

“The rise of the Gulf carriers is an amazing story. They are leading Middle East traffic growth that is still in the double digits. And even if we look at the less-headline-grabbing carriers in North Africa, we are seeing a healthy demand performance,” continued Tyler. In the UAE, for example, a study by Oxford Economics recently concluded that aviation supports some 15% of GDP and 14% of total employment.

According to the IATA’s Regional Outlook for 2012 – 2016, the Middle East is expected to have the third fastest growth rate at 6.6%. Asia-Pacific passenger traffic is forecast to grow at 6.7% CAGR. Traffic within the Asia-Pacific region will represent 33% of global passengers in 2016, up from 29% in 2011. This makes the region the largest regional market for air transport (ahead of North America and Europe which each represent 21%). 

Thanking private and public sector companies in the region for their open support for Airport Show 2013, Daniyal Qureshi, Show Director, Reed Exhibitions, the organizers of the event, said it was directly proportional to the growth in the aviation sector in the MENA region and Indian Subcontinent.

“We have all the bellwethers returning to participate in the Airport Show year after year, which indicates that key international players view this event as a vital platform to meet decision makers involved in airport construction, expansion and modernization plans across the Middle East, North Africa, and the Indian Subcontinent. We are confident that Airport Show 2013 will be a vital forum for decision makers to meet global airport suppliers and contractors, and with the inaugural Global Airport Leaders’ Forum the UAE will also host a vital platform to discuss international policy and strategy issues for the airports industry,” Mr. Qureshi pointed out.

Reed Exhibitions


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