By Shane McGinley
Middle East will be fastest growing region globally, China to drive air traveller growth, says agency
Passenger traffic into the UAE will hit 82.3m over the next three years, driven by a Middle East-wide rise in air travellers of 9.4 percent, the International Air Transport Association said.
Global air travellers will rise to 3.3 billion by 2014, up 32 percent on the 2.5 billion carried in 2009, fuelled by strong growth from China, the agency said Monday in its latest forecast.
The Middle East is expected be the fastest growing region, with the UAE, Kuwait and Jordan ranking among the 10 quickest growing countries for international traffic.
With a growth rate of 10.2 percent, the UAE ranks only behind China at 10.8 percent.
Despite its rosy forecast, the IATA warned the effects of the global recession continued to impact parts of the aviation industry.
"The shadow of the global economic recession is expected to remain over parts of the industry for some time to come," IATA director general Giovanni Bisignani said in an emailed statement.
The surge in new passengers presents a challenge and opportunity to the aviation market, he said.
IATA said China will be the biggest contributor to new air travellers, accounting for 214 million out of the total 800 million new passengers between 2009 and 2014.
In December, the agency said that Middle East carriers will see their profits shrink from $700m in 2010 to $400m in 2011 as the fragile global aviation industry continues to flounder.
Despite a drop in profits, Middle East airlines would remain the fastest growing carriers against struggling western airlines, IATA said.
Last year's profit of the industry was estimated at $15.1bn, compared to September's forecast of $8.9bn. The numbers compared to a total industry loss of $9.9bn in 2009.
The Gulf has become a hub for airline innovation as traditional power players like Europe and the US continue to slump.
Flagship carriers Etihad, Emirates and Qatar have been expanding their routes further into Asia, Africa and South America, while regional low-cost carriers Air Arabia and flyDubai continue to provide local competition to short-haul destinations.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.