Dubai airport busiest for global travel as virus lingers –

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Dubai’s main airport said on Tuesday it maintained its top spot as the world’s busiest for international travel with an estimated 29 million passengers commuting through the global gateway l ‘last year.

The passenger figures for 2021 are encouraging for Dubai’s tourism economy, seen as a vital link between East and West. The figures indicate that international travel has increased somewhat since the coronavirus pandemic led to unprecedented global lockdowns and border closures in 2020. Last year’s figure represents a 12% increase in traffic to the Dubai International Airport compared to 2020, which recorded almost 26 million travellers. .

Yet even with 29.1 million passengers crisscrossing through Dubai International Airport, or DXB, last year, the figure is a far cry from the pre-pandemic milestone of 86.4 million annual traffic recorded by the airport in 2019. .

Dubai is currently hosting the six-month World Expo, which was delayed for a year due to the pandemic. Expo 2020, which opened in October and will run until the end of March, has attracted millions of visitors as well as heads of state, royalty and celebrities, helping to boost the reputation of Dubai as a global destination. It is unclear, however, what the Expo’s overall contribution to Dubai’s economic recovery has been.

Just over 70% of Dubai airport’s traveler figures last year represent arrivals, with a large proportion of those likely residents traveling to and from the emirate. Before the pandemic, about half of all passengers transited through Dubai.

Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said DXB expects 57 million travelers to pass through the airport this year, and a full recovery to pre-pandemic numbers by 2024.

“Dubai has done such a good job of reassuring travellers. It is a safe city to visit and come to vacation and do business. So I think the actual recovery trends are very encouraging, indeed,” Griffiths said.

It is the eighth year in a row that Dubai International Airport has won the title of the world’s busiest airport for international travel, overtaking Heathrow in London and Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta for international travellers, although the latter is among the busiest in terms of overall passenger traffic.

The largest share of traffic to Dubai came from India, with 4.2 million travelers, followed by Pakistan, with 1.8 million travelers last year. A key growth market for travel to and from Dubai is neighboring Saudi Arabia, which is aggressively attracting business and tourism in direct competition with Dubai and the wider UAE.

The UAE is home to over 100,000 British citizens. Dubai’s main airport saw 1.2 million passengers from the UK last year, including 77,000 in December alone.

Dubai, under orders from the UAE Aviation Authority, was forced to ground all passenger flights and close its airports for eight weeks in spring 2020. Unlike the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi, however, Dubai quickly reopened to travellers. Dubai has not required proof of a COVID-19 vaccination to enter and does not require a negative virus test to enter most places. This approach did not come without cost. The United Arab Emirates has been redlisted as a ‘non-travelling’ country by the UK, US and other countries for much of the last year.

“What we’re trying to do now is campaign globally for the relaxation of travel restrictions and testing,” Griffiths said. “But now we see that the requirement for it is diminishing. We just need to get governments to recognize this fact and act quickly to remove the remaining travel restrictions. »

Overall, coronavirus infection figures remain relatively low in the United Arab Emirates. The country has been aggressive in vaccinating its population of more than 9 million people against COVID-19, most of whom are foreign residents and all of whom were able to receive the vaccine for free.

While masks in public spaces are still mandatory in Dubai, life in the city-state may otherwise be unhindered by the pandemic. Just this week, Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic stepped onto the tennis court to take part in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship, his first tournament since his expulsion from Australia and his absence from the first Grand Slam tournament. of the year due to his refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19. .

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