As Dubai targets 20 million annual visitors by 2020, plus an additional five million between October 2020 and April 2021 for Expo 2020 – 70% of which will come from outside the UAE – a number of initiatives to increase stopover tourism have been introduced including new transit visas and dedicated tourism packages.
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.
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 AED30 billion in developing Al Maktoum International Airport, AED28 billion expansion of phase four of Dubai International Airport and AED 25 billion for the development and expansion of Abu Dhabi International Airport. In addition, Sharjah Airport is also undergoing a AED1.5 billion investment in expansion of its terminal.
There are also a number of upcoming and planned airport expansion projects across Saudi Arabia, including King Abdulaziz International Airport Expansion in Jeddah and King Khalid International Airport Expansion in Riyadh.
However, more than 63% of the 89 million passengers who passed through Dubai airport in 2018 were in transit with just 8% of these passengers leaving the airport to explore the emirate, according to the latest Colliers International data published by Reed Travel Exhibitions ahead of Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2019, which takes place at Dubai World Trade Centre between 28 April – 1 May 2019.
Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market, said: “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 AED 50. 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.”
The inaugural CONNECT Middle East, India and Africa forum which will be co-located alongside ATM 2019 – taking place on the last two days of the show is a good place to be to find the answer to the question at our title.