Dubai overtaking Heathrow as busiet airport hub

Cape Town - Dubai will become the world's busiest airport next year, taking over from London Heathrow.

So says Willie Walsh, CEO of the International Airlines Group (IAG). Walsh says the exponential growth of Dubai as a an aviation hub has a lot to do with the enabling role played by the governments in the gulf.

"In 2001 Dubai was number 99 in the world in terms of international tourist arrivals. London Heathrow was number one.  Last year in 2012, Dubai ranked number two. London Heathrow was still number one, but next year Dubai will overtake Heathrow."

Walsh says the government in Dubai recognized the strengths of their geographic location and the value of aviation for the region.

"So they created the environment for the industry to flourish. They built world class airports and other infrastructure for Emirates and created a tax environment that was in favour of the airline."

Walsh says it's now estimated that Emirates airlines will contribute around 22% of the total gdp of the Gulf region by 2015.

In 1998 gulf carriers (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar) flew to 48 destinations worldwide. Today they fly to 162 destinations.

Walsh said on the other end of the scale there is governments like the UK that is taxing the aviation industry out of growth.

"The continued high taxes is madness. And it's damaging the industry and the UK economy."

He was addressing delegates attending the 43d annual general assembly of the Airlines Association of southern Africa (AASA), that is gathered in Cape Town.

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