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Arab Aviation Summit opens with call to dash protectionism

A fervent call to eliminate protectionism was what opened the Arab Aviation Summit being held in Dubai.

The appeal was made to propel growth of the aviation industry in compliance with Dubai’s successful “open skies” policy.

Arab Air Carriers Organization Director General Abdul Wahab Teffaha remarked that protectionism – or the act of blocking key aviation players from global and regional markets – would hamper the expansion of the global airline industry.

Teffaha encouraged participants of the summit to take a lesson or two from the success of Dubai.

“Dubai’s government has subscribed not only to open skies but also to openness to everything. We have tried protectionism and failed because it creates inefficiencies. Dubai has succeeded due to openness and the removal of the idea of protectionism.”

“Developing the aviation industry, which contributes directly to economic growth, creates jobs and business opportunities in almost all sectors, is what makes it exciting. But this will not happen through protectionism or by blocking key players from global and regional markets,” Teffaha said.

“As we face many present day challenges, including air traffic management, sky liberalization, rising taxes and charges, secondary airports among others, we need to work together to bring more social and economic benefits to the Arab world,” continued Teffaha.

The 7th Arab Aviation Summit, which worked under the theme ‘Time to Transform: Addressing sustainability challenges and opportunities for the regional aviation sector,” was graced by over 200 delegates from 15 Arab countries.

IATA figures indicate that the Middle East’s aviation market would grow 5% each year until 2036. Projections show that the sector would see 322 million passengers a year on routes to, from and within the region. The total market size would also bulge to 517 million passengers during this stretch.

The Middle East region captured a 5% share of the global market last year, flying 206.1 million passengers – a boost of 9.1% over 2015.

Arab Aviation Summit Chairperson and Air Arabia group CEO, Adel Al Ali, related that Arab aviation is impacted by the dynamic geo-political situation, the global economy, technological developments and others factors.

“Our region is witnessing constant development and the theme for this year’s edition, ‘Time to Transform’, reflects this fact. Today, we address the sustainability of our industry and the challenges and opportunities it faces in the short and long term,” said Al Ali.

Samir Al Darabi, director of United Nations Information Center for Gulf, remarked that the aviation summit looks to put the spotlight on the contributions of aviation and the tourism sector and its economic bearing on the Arab world.

“We will also address key challenges facing the regional industry, including geopolitical changes, air management, open sky policies and fluctuating oil prices.”

Ghaith Al Ghaith, the CEO of Flydubai, said the freeing up of the aviation market is a huge industry change in the region.

“There are still more opportunities to be tapped here and we are still behind the curve. There are still no open skies and we need to work towards changing that situation.

“Why is Dubai the tourism and aviation hub of the region? Regional governments need to learn from Dubai. There is no set model that says that low cost airlines have to behave in a certain way. In our region we have different types of customers and you have to offer options,” he said.

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