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Abu Dhabi airport keeps getting busier

Abu Dhabi International Airport continues to buck the global aviation slowdown, yesterday reporting that passenger traffic for the first 11 months of the year grew by 32.3 per cent.

The number of passengers handled at the airport this year – including tourists, nationals, residents and transit – reached 8,928,622 by the end of last month, up from 6,196,056 in the same period last year, the Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) said. Traffic figures for last month alone show a 27.4 per cent increase compared with the same period last year.

"The main reason for the growth figures we are seeing today is due to the increase in Haj traffic this year and the seasonal events of National Day and the Eid al Adha," said a spokesman from ADAC.

"But throughout the year, traffic at the airport mainly came from India and the subcontinent, which includes Pakistan."

Tourism in the Middle East appears to be weathering the global slowdown, although analysts believe that the worst is still to come next year. Earlier this month, a study by the international consultant, Deloitte, predicted that growth in the number of tourists visiting the UAE next year would ease to 5 per cent, down from anticipated growth of 15 per cent this year.

However, Abu Dhabi appears to be bucking this trend, too. Already enjoying positive results this year, ADAC planned to improve from "sustained growth" to higher levels of growth, said the spokesman. "We are already on course to reach the nine million passengers milestone by the end of this year, but we are also planning to increase our growth beyond the current figures."

To support their ambitious growth plans, the company plans to open the Dh1.1 billion (US$299 million) Terminal 3 next month, which will increase the capacity of the airport from seven million to 12 million passengers a year.

The new terminal will be used nearly exclusively by Etihad Airways, which is seeing passenger traffic growth of roughly 30 per cent a year.

"The continued growth of the airport’s home airline, Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, continues to be a significant driver in growing passenger traffic at Abu Dhabi International, as well as increasing our efforts to increase frequencies and routes with other airlines," said Rudy Vercelli, the chief executive of ADAC.

By 2015, Dubai hopes to nearly double its number of tourists, from 7.7 million last year to 15 million. Abu Dhabi, which attracted just more than 1.5 million visitors, has set a target of 2.7 million by 2012.

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