Jan 20 1015   | Source: Khaleej Times 

Dubai to see 100 million air travellers by 2020

So far, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai (GDRFA) has invested Dh100 million in smart gates to speed up the arrival and departure procedures, Major-General Mohammed Al Marri, Director-General of the directorate, said on Monday while giving details about the forthcoming global conference on ‘The Future of Borders’.

“While the Dubai International Airports now have over 2,800 smart gates and counters, half of the passengers are expected to use these latest devices within five years.”

Maj-Gen Al Marri said the conference, which will feature 24 experts from 12 countries from March 11 to 12 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, is to chalk out the future road map for the borders industry and pave the way for better growth.

“The two-day conference, themed ‘Future of Borders’, will provide valuable insights into the future travel trends, the increased responsibilities of border control authorities and the challenges they face in handling the ever-increasing (number of) passengers.”

The five-session conference is aimed to come up with the best formula to achieve a balance between the need to strengthen security in the face of growing threats and risks and accelerate travel facilitation while maintaining a high quality of services provided to travellers, he added.

“The event will pave the way for all stakeholders to develop not only the borders industry, but also the travel and tourism industries and keep the momentum of cooperation and collaboration among them to implement the growth and expansion plans smoothly in line with the changing times.”

Major-General Obaid Muhair bin Suroor, Deputy Director-General, GDRFA, said the well-trained staff have examined 64,000 documents in 2014. “Some 1,082 of these proved to be counterfeit.”

Adding, he said the conference provides an ideal platform to present the UAE’s successful borders management experiment and its expertise in harnessing the latest technologies, smart gates, smart travel solutions and biometric devices to accelerate and facilitate travel.

“The conference’s agenda highlights the importance of sharing information, knowledge and best practices in managing borders control, the role of advanced technology and travel smart solutions and the importance of intensifying international cooperation among all stakeholders on borders, travel and tourism domains.”

Col Hussain Ibrahim, Assistant Director-General, GDRFA, said the immigration authorities in Dubai are currently studying the possibility of using smart phones instead of passports at the emirate’s airports.

“We are preparing an app for this purpose so passengers can use their smart phones at the Dubai international airports as of the second half of this year,” he said, noting that the app reader is being modified to be used at the airports of the emirate.

Thani Alzaffin, director-general and board member of emaratech, the exclusive host sponsor of the conference, said the event will work towards devising a road map for the ‘intelligent travel’ concepts that the GDRFA and emaratech are engineering to play a leading role in shaping the future of the industry and enrich travel experiences.

“We will launch a new device during the conference. It is vital for all of us to gain and share insights into how technological revolutions will transform the travel experience in the near future.”

Badr Abbas, vice-president for Commercial Operations for UAE & Oman at Emirates Airline, said the aviation sector has witnessed tremendous development in the UAE in general and Dubai in particular during the past few years and contributes 27 per cent to Dubai’s GDP.

“Speakers will provide insights into several important issues including ID thefts, forged documents and the role of smart gates, e-passports and biometric devices in enhancing security and accelerating travel facilitation.”

More than 500 delegates are expected to attend the conference, including a large number of Interior ministers, heads of border control authorities, CEOs of airlines, airport operators and representatives of international organisations such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA), International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and Airports Council International (ACI).

According to the IATA estimates, the number of air passengers globally will rise to more than four billion by 2017 while the Gulf airports alone will receive about 450 million passengers by 2020.

Abbas said the number of passengers through the Dubai airports will rise to more than 100 million by 2020, up from 71 million in 2014 whereas Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai World Central (DWC) is projected to handle over 200 million people annually next decade.

“DCAA forecasts aircraft movements for both airports, Dubai International and Al Maktoum International, rising to 665,000 in 2020, bringing in millions of passengers annually.”

By 2020, as Dubai expects to welcome over 20 million tourists for Expo 2020, it is estimated that Emirates Airlines will fly 70 million passengers, Oxford Economics said.

“It said overall, Dubai had direct passenger flight connections to 149 cities with populations of over one million people, creating potential export markets of over 916 million people, or 13 per cent of the world’s population.”

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