BY MOHAMMAD SHOEB
DOHA: With Qatar emerging as a new aviation hub in the region backed by a booming tourism industry, the total number of IATA-accredited travel agencies in the country jumped to 143 in 2013, from merely 17 in 2007, according to the latest figures provided by International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The figures show that the number of IATA-accredited travel agencies in Qatar has witnessed a consistent double-digit growth over the last six years, with 126 companies being accredited by IATA between 2008 and 2013.
“Qatar is a wonderful example of the transformative power of air connectivity”, said Hussein Dabbas (pictured), Regional Vice-President at IATA, for Africa and the Middle East.
Dabbas, in an email interview to The Peninsula, said: “The vision of the Qatari leadership to create a hub for aviation is helping to diversify the economy and generate tourism. This openness and connectivity would also have been a key factor in winning the World Cup in 2022.”
The year 2009 registered an exceptional more than100 percent growth with 55 new travel agencies from the Gulf state joining the association, followed by 2010 when 30 new agencies successfully received accreditation from the world’s largest aviation body.
The total number of IATA-accredited travel agents in the neighbouring Saudi Arabia is 1458, the highest in the region, followed by the UAE with 610. And Kuwait witnessed 179 new IATA-accredited players entering the local market during the same period.
Dabbas noted that the industry which is celebrating the 100th anniversary of commercial aviation has been an incredible force for good, giving people access to the world, generating jobs and economic development, and strengthening family and social ties across cultures and countries.
“From one plane and one passenger that took off across Tampa Bay, Florida, 100 years ago, we have grown to an industry that serves more than 40,000 city-pairs and carries more than three billion passengers,” said Dabbas.
Referring to Oxford Economics forecasts, he said that by 2030 the aviation industry is expect to see around 5.9 billion passengers and 150 million tonnes of cargo shipments, supporting 82 million jobs around the world and contributing $6.9 trillion to global GDP.
He highlighted that the center of gravity of the industry is shifting eastwards, with the middle class expected to double in the Middle East, Africa and South America compared to 2009, and multiply by seven in Asia.
According to IATA, the Middle East, in 2014, is expected to register a strong passenger growth of 13 percent, and increasing industry profitability to a record $2.4bn, which is good news for customers and the economy of the region, including Qatar.
“Qatar can really take advantage of this growth”, said Dabbas, “if it continues to support aviation and tourism as it is doing by focusing on passenger experience. Passenger’s trust and satisfaction are very important elements in building a strong tourism base for the country.”