By Martina Fuchs www.reuters.com
The opening of the passenger terminal at Dubai’s new airport will be further delayed to 2012, but the emirate’s air industry should benefit from unrest in the Arab world, the chief executive of Dubai Airports said.
“Over the next year or so, we are adding larger aircrafts and higher passenger numbers,” Paul Griffiths told Reuters on Sunday. “It (Al Maktoum airport) will become a scheduled passenger and cargo airport during 2012.”
The opening of the Al Maktoum airport, estimated to cost around $34 billion, to passengers had been already delayed to the last quarter of 2011 from March.
Dubai’s second airport, billed as the world’s largest when it becomes fully operational, should have an expected passenger capacity of up to 160 million people a year.
Griffiths also said the regional unrest saw tourists re-routing their travels from regional hotspots to Dubai, a member of the United Arab Emirates, benefiting its economy.
“I don’t think the unrest in Egypt or other parts in the Middle East and North Africa is having any negative effect at all. Actually, I think it is quite positive,” he said.
“Some people that were considering other areas are coming to Dubai because they are seeing it as a very stable place to be,” he said.
Turmoil across the Arab world, which has toppled leaders in Egypt and Tunisia and is now challenging autocratic regimes in Libya as well as nearby Bahrain and Oman, has discouraged travellers.
Dubai, known for opulent hotels and artificial palm-shaped islands, has so far escaped the regional unrest, which started in December.
Passenger numbers at Dubai International Airport jumped by 10 percent to 4.25 million in January from a year ago. February figures are not yet available.
The traffic rose 15 percent last year, helped by global economic recovery, and was seen expanding 11 percent in 2011, Dubai Airports have said.
Asked how much the airport and its associated industries would contribute to Dubai’s gross domestic product in 2011, Griffiths said: “We believe the number will be between 20 and 25 percent … 98 percent of all visitor arrivals to Dubai are by air. The contribution towards GDP is significant.”
The International Monetary Fund expected Dubai’s GDP, which accounts for a third of UAE output, to grow by 0.5 percent in 2010, more conservative than the government forecast of 2.3 percent, following its debt woes. (Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)