As Abu Dhabi reveals plans to become the top meetings destination in the region by 2015, the emirate has already achieved a significant feat as it prepares to host the Arab Air Carriers Organisation’s (AACO) 44th Annual General Meeting (AGM) next week, attracting aviation leaders from the across the region who will be able to sample its state of the art conference facilities first hand.
The event, which takes place from November 28th - 30th, will be held in the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr hotel in Abu Dhabi – an iconic 369 room beachfront property with strikingly, contemporary architecture, offering the highest level of comfort and elegance throughout.
Hi tech conference facilities at this five star property include versatile meeting rooms, a 1,070 square-meter ballroom and unique outdoor event spaces and spectacular views of the Abu Dhabi creek.
On Monday, AACO members’ Director Generals and Chief Executive Officers will descend upon the stunning lifestyle Fairmont property for the groundbreaking AGM, representing 25 member airlines, in addition to representatives from 49 industry leading companies’ partners with AACO from aircraft and engine manufacturers to global distribution systems.
James Hogan, chief executive, Etihad Airways, will chair the event, which will include two stimulating days of networking, brainstorming, and discussions on industry issues.
Abu Dhabi targets MICE market
The event comes at a key time for Abu Dhabi, as the destination has been placing increasing emphasis on attracting business tourism, recently upgrading its meetings and conference facilities and providing world class business facilities.
“In 2015, we aim to become the number one meetings destination in the region, a top-100 meetings destination in the world, host four times the number of current MICE events and double the number of MICE visitor arrivals and yield,” said Gillian Taylor, ADTA Business Tourism Manager.
Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority recently revealed that it is expecting an increase of 20,000 business tourists this year.
Approximately 1.3 million of the 1.8 million guests that arrived in the emirate in 2011 were business travellers, with 215,000 guests arriving specifically for MICE related activities, according to reports.
The AACO meeting also comes at a crucial time for Middle Eastern airlines, who have devised a successful formula for not only resilience, but also success during one of the most challenging economic and political climates in aviation history.
Importance of Arab carriers set increase further in the coming decades
According to aviation trade body IATA Middle Eastern airlines have posted a surge in international traffic and capacity growth while international airlines are undergoing a slump in passenger demand.
Majdi Sabri, IATA MENA regional vice president, reveals: “International passenger traffic recorded at 9.1 per cent above 2010 levels in the Middle East.
“Capacity growth stood at 8.5 per cent. It was the only region where demand growth outstripped growth in supply.”
As the balance of power between Arab and European airlines has changed dramatically, the role of the AACO, which was founded in 1965, carries over 106 million passengers and serves over 100 countries with its 25 member airlines, becomes even more crucial, with the Arab world now clearly established as a major force in international commercial aviation.
Abdul Wahab Taffaha, secretary general AACO explains: “While our initial objectives were humble, there has been a significant evolution over the past four or five decades.”
He added: “Today as a non-profit organisation based in Lebanon we cooperate with regional and international companies, government and non government bodies, foreign airlines, manufacturers and service providers.”
AACO hot topics
Hot topics on the agenda for the AACO forum will include intra-Arab issues in terms of regulations and market access; while Euro-Arab relations will also be discussed as consolidation continues in Europe and Arab countries are gradually introduced to the European Union skies.
The environment and the impact of the forthcoming EU emissions trading scheme on Arab Airlines will also be hot topics.
Commenting on the trading scheme, Abdul Wahab Taffaha, secretary general, AACO explains: “Serious questions have been raised about the legality of this scheme and its application to the national aviation industry.”
Etihad to chair AACO general meeting
Leadership of the AACO is the latest coup for Etihad Airways, which has had another phenomenally successful year of growth as well as recently achieving a comprehensive World Travel Awards victory which saw the carrier pick up four coveted awards, including Middle East’s Leading Airline.
James Hogan recently outlined the carrier’s ambitious plans for the future: “In 2012, we will continue to grow and announce new destinations as we introduce innovations such as onboard internet connectivity for all passengers.
“Etihad Airways is proud to carry the flag of the United Arab Emirates as it celebrates its 40th anniversary.”
Other award winning member carriers who will be in attendance at the AACO annual meeting, set to take place on November 28th-30th, include Emirates and Qatar Airways.
The AGM is the major event on the AACO calendar which brings together the chief executives of 25 member airlines in addition to a large number of aviation stake-holders, AACO Industry Partners and Partner Airlines as well as international and local press.