By Claire Ferris-Lay
Safe haven status coupled with growing tourism industry results in increase
Air traffic through the UAE increased 7.6 percent in 2011 as the Gulf state emerged as a safe haven amid the Arab Spring and continued to grow its tourism industry, new figures have shown.
The number of flights in December topped 61,197, with an average of 1,974 flights per day, the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) said in a statement. Dubai International Airport recorded the largest amount of traffic at 28,223 last month and recorded 13,233 flights.
Abu Dhabi airport saw 8686 air traffic movements in December followed by 5522 at Sharjah Airport, 186 at Fujairah Airport, 84 at Al Ain Airport, 555 at Ras Al Khaimah Airport and 495 air traffic movements at Al Maktoum Airport, said GCAA.
The highest record movement of traffic was in October with a total of 61705 air traffic movements, it added.
The UAE, along with several other Gulf states, managed to avoid the public protests that swept across the Arab world last year. Dubai in 2011 was the only tourist destination in the region to see its hotel occupancy (4 percent) and revenue per available room (4.5 percent) increase, according to data from Ernst & Young.
In Abu Dhabi, occupancy rates for January to November 2011 were up two percent on the same period of 2010 while average room rates fell by 8.6 percent, said Ernst & Young.
UAE Economy Minister Sultan bin Saeed al-Mansouri in May said he had already seen a pick-up in tourism during the first quarter of the year.
But concern that the euro zone crisis may affect regional carriers’ is mounting. The International Air Transport Association in December warned Middle East airlines could post profits of $400m for 2011, 50 percent less than predicted earlier, as high fuel costs squeeze profit margins on price sensitive long-haul routes.
Regional carriers next year will see profits of $300m, less than half the previous forecast of $700m, as the long-haul market conditions in Europe deteriorate, the aviation body said in its revised outlook for the industry.
“The biggest risk facing airline profitability over the next year is the economic turmoil that would result from a failure of governments to resolve the euro zone sovereign debt crisis. Such an outcome could lead to losses of over $8bn - the largest since the 2008 financial crisis,” Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and CEO.