The World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that the direct contribution of travel and tourism to the UAE's GDP is expected to hit $19.9bn this year and its set to become increasingly important as a sector in driving the country's overall economic development.
Key to this growth has been the performance of flydubai, the world's fastest-ever growing start-up airline ever. New figures have been released covering the period from February 2011 to March 2012 that highlight the remarkable growth in its passenger numbers, particularly from the CIS, Eastern & Central Europe and GCC markets. Key statistics include:
- A 284% annual growth in passenger numbers from the CIS and Central Europe markets between February 2011 and March 2012, compared to the period of February 2010 and March 2011.
- An 89% annual growth in passenger numbers from the GCC between February 2011 and March 2012, compared to the period of February 2010 and March 2011.
In just under three years, flydubai has launched operations to more than 45 destinations across 29 countries and is now the second-largest airline operating out of Dubai Airport. Crucially, it now has the most comprehensive network of all Middle Eastern carriers to Central and Eastern Europe and has opened up new markets that previously had no direct UAE air links.
The airline now has 78 regular flights per week to 13 different destinations in the CIS countries, Eastern and Central Europe, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Serbia, Turkmenistan and Ukraine. It is currently the only scheduled operator flying to Dubai from Belgrade, Donetsk and Kharkiv.
Latest figures from Dubai International Airport reveal that passenger traffic between Dubai and Russia in the first quarter of this year climbed 46.53% to 359,066, compared to 245,050 during the same period in 2011. This remarkable growth is being linked to flydubai's expansion to several cities in Russia and the CIS region which includes twice weekly flights to the Russian cities of Kazan, Ufa, Samara and Yekaterinburg.
flydubai's GCC network is also the largest of all Middle Eastern carriers, with 424 flights per week to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar. Within Saudi Arabia alone, the airline has 73 flights every week covering seven destinations. The airline is also the only scheduled operator flying from UAE to Abha, Gassim, Taif and Yanbu.
H.E Jamal Al Hai, ESVP Communications and Internal Affairs, Dubai Airports said: "The airline industry has a vital role to play in ensuring the UAE continues to experience spectacular growth in the travel and tourism sector. flydubai's ability to tap into new markets plays an invaluable part in ensuring that we continue to drive forward in this sector and is of benefit to the wider economy by bringing more visitors to the country. Today, flydubai is the second largest carrier, by passenger numbers, operating out of Dubai International Airport and in a very short period of time has become one of the strongest airlines in the region."
Speaking ahead of the region's foremost travel and tourism event, the Arabian Travel Market 2012, which begins on 30 April, flydubai's CEO Ghaith Al Ghaith, said: "What these latest figures illustrate is how flydubai is proving to be a pioneering force on a number of levels. Our vision three years ago was to build an unique network that not only offered real value for passengers but that also strategically opened up new markets. The resulting benefits for these destinations and the UAE are clear to see, whether that's in terms of trade or tourism. As these latest figures prove, this vision is already being realised, but what excites us the most is that we've only just begun on our journey. Our potential for further growth is huge and we will continue to target exciting new destinations that we believe are currently under-served."