Hosted in Bahrain, the World Air Cargo Event 2008 promises to assemble the leading domestic and international cargo operators under one roof for two days of hard hitting industry conferences.
Considering its phenomenal growth into a global transport hub, it is perhaps not surprising that the Middle East has remained the region of choice for the World Air Cargo Event since 2006.
Last year's exhibition in Dubai proved to be a valuable platform for regional cargo players, helping to establish deeper bonds within the Middle East airfreight industry as a whole.
Hoping to build on that success, the 2008 leg yet again boasts an extensive exhibitors list and a full range of industry themed conferences.
Staged this month between the 12th and 14th at the Bahrain International Exhibition Centre, the location offers a strategic meeting point for the Middle East airfreight community. Positioned in the Persian Gulf, Bahrain resides on a borderless country island, with Saudi Arabia to its West and Qatar to its South.
The country has developed into a major aviation centre in the Middle East, offering effective flight connections as well as reputable hospitality to this year's World Air Cargo Event attendees.
In 1994, Bahrain International Airport inaugurated its US$100 million terminal thus expanding its handling capacity to 10 million passengers a year. As the airport has continued to generate healthy interest over the years so too has local carrier Gulf Air experienced strong growth.
With the conference on its home turf, the airline is set to have a large presence throughout the two day event. A key sponsor and exhibitor, Gulf Air will also have its acting president and chief executive, Bjorn Naf, speaking at the conference entitled ‘Air cargo opportunities throughout the Middle East'.
Other Middle East airlines participating and exhibiting at the event include Etihad, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Maximus Air Cargo. Following its acquisition of a UAE operator's licence in 2007, Maximus in particular has strong aspirations for both the year ahead and its presence at the exhibition.
"We have doubled our fleet which means we have additional capacity for our customers and potential clients.
This event is therefore very important to Maximus as the whole of the air cargo industry will be present, which will offer a whole array of opportunities," says Thomas Bommer, marketing manager, Maximus Air Cargo.
"This is the first major air cargoevent of the year and will be a good means for strengthening contact with industry players. Some of the key members of our management team will also be participating at the selected conferences.
We regularly operate once or twice a week to Bahrain, which is experiencing growing cargo volumes, so its venue will be of benefit to us as well," he adds.
On the international front, leading players from Europe, such as Lufthansa Cargo Charter and TNT Airways, and America, including United Airlines, will be exhibiting at the spacious Bahrain International Exhibition Centre.
This year's event has reportedly sold 50% more exhibition space than the 2007 leg and is expected to have an increased number of delegates and visitors.
One company not willing to pass up the opportunity was Cargo B. The Belgium carrier began operations last February and is currently catering for cargo demand between Europe and Africa.
"By participating in this event, Cargo B wants to further increase its brand and identity on the cargo market after our start as a brand new carrier in 2007. At the moment we are operating one Boeing 747F with a second due this month and the third joining our fleet in April.
This event is therefore excellent timing to promote our new services and capacity in the cargo market," explains Gerard ter Bruggen, director cargo, Cargo B.
"We will introduce at least three new destinations to our network.
One of these will probably be Dubai International Airport or Sharjah International Airport for regular scheduled flights. With the event taking place right in the central heart of the Middle East, there is a great opportunity to make contact with possible interline partners.
We believe we will be able to meet the right parties and people during the event," he adds.
Of course, the World Air Cargo Event is not exclusively beneficial to airfreight operators, the many supporting necessities of the business, such as airports, cargo sales and service providers, play a pivotal role in its success.
From Dallas Forth Worth Airport and Washington Dulles Airport in the US, to Stuttgart Airport and Frankfurt-Hann Airport in Germany, this year in particular sees a broad range of airports exhibiting from around the globe.
With 49 offices across 25 countries, the Air Logistics Group is accustomed to dealing with the airfreight industry on a global platform. Founded in the UK in 1994, the general sales and service agent has since developed a strong and recognised cargo brand, which it fully intends to promote during the event.
"Air Logistics Group has a worldwide network of offices and through participating at the World Air Cargo Event we aim to continually raise awareness of our organisation on a global scale.
It is also an ideal platform for networking with current clients and provides an excellent opportunity to make new contacts and develop new business," says Melissa Bainbridge, group marketing and public relations manager, Air Logistics Group.
"We represent key Middle Eastern carriers throughout our group and it is important that we are at the event to continue to develop those relationships and contracts. In addition, as we continue to expand as an organisation, we see the Middle East as a vital region to consider in our growth plans.
A representative from Air Logistics Group will participate in the conferences. Discussions of particular interest will be on the topic of ‘air cargo opportunities within the Middle East'," she adds.
The four conferences running during the course of the two days are indeed an attractive proposition to many delegates and attendees. Perhaps more so than other events, the conferences form an integral part of the itinerary and include a vast array of industry speakers sharing their views.
The event organiser's have tried to ensure senior figures from influential companies present various topics in a professional and thought provoking manner.
With the industry facing a period of uncertainty, the conferences cater to a range of current themes, including the environment, the opportunities available in the Middle East and the future of the sector.
Trade shows aimed specifically at the airfreight industry are not commonly found in the Middle East, and the conferences are therefore a valuable tool for members of the industry to share their views and concerns.
Roughly five or so speakers are assigned to each conference session, with special attention placed in obtaining a diversity of backgrounds and regions. In the case of the ‘sea/air cargo - a growing idea' session for example, three continents are spanned by the guest speakers.
For the ‘facing environmental challenges' conference, a particular focus is placed on the academia world and trade organisations.
Dr Philippe Rochat, executive director of the Air Transport Action Group will be speaking during the session and is confident it will prove an important platform for change.
The Air Transport Action Group has launched a global communication initiative to redress the aviation industry's environmental image and credibility. The World Air Cargo Event 2008 is an ideal platform to press the cargo sector to play a more active role in these communication efforts," he says.
An independent coalition of organisations and companies from within the air transport industry, the Air Transport Action Group is designed to drive aviation infrastructure improvements in an environmentally responsible manner.
Created in the early 1990s, the non profit association is based in Geneva, Switzerland, and has round 80 members worldwide, including airports, airlines, manufacturers, chambers of commerce, travel and tourism organisations, ground transportation and communications providers.
"We hope those attending the conference will develop a better understanding of the environmental challenge, in particular global warming, that faces the whole air transport industry today," summarises Rochat.
The final conference addresses the future of the airfreight industry, a fitting end to an event that looks set to be a major talking point during the rest of 2008.For all the latest transport news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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