Intense regional and global competition facing airlines in the Middle East came under the spotlight during a discussion session featuring Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker at a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Egypt.Al Baker was among a delegation of political and business figures representing the State of Qatar at the meeting, during which he addressed a Plenary Session on The Challenges of Going Global.
More than 1,200 international delegates drawn from political, social, economic, business and academic circles gathered in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh for the high-level three-day meeting.
Al Baker spoke of how Middle East companies were becoming more global by expanding their operations away from the Arab World thanks to more liberal trade agreements with other countries.
The world, he said, was waking up to the fact that the Middle East - in particular countries in the GCC - was grabbing the limelight and entering the global market place with vigour.
As part of this process, he said airlines based in the region were taking advantage of greater opportunities and were helping drive trade and commerce with rest of the world.
New air routes helped bridge ties between countries and facilitate trade, he stressed, adding that airlines were pivotal as the economic engine of their home countries.
The Middle East regional aviation industry is a clear-cut example of how competition and trade have helped strengthen economies and build traffic flow between countries, he said.
Despite political and social problems in the Middle East, the region was emerging as a powerful economic trading force. UAE companies, he said, were striking it rich with property deals in Europe, US and Asia and such arrangements were enhancing the image of the Arab world as cash-rich nations. Its businessmen and women have the acumen and are on par with any business house worldwide, he added.
Al Baker, however, pointed out that despite the trade building process, regional companies faced political obstacles in expanding their reach globally. As a trading region, the Middle East had not enjoyed the same benefits as companies in Europe, North America or even Asia, he said.
Middle East countries must learn to work together as a trading bloc to give them more leverage in the global marketplace, warned Al Baker.
Within the aviation environment, individual countries have been, until now, striking bilateral agreements with other countries which have given their airlines a new lease of life in the race for market share amid tough competition.
Aircraft manufacturers in Europe and America are fighting to secure orders with the Middle East’s burgeoning cash-rich airlines, added Al Baker.
He said that Qatar Airways was strategically well placed within the region and rest of the world to compete effectively. Qatar Airways was a successful example of determination and vision by the Emir of Qatar to create a thriving international business and propel the nation into the international spotlight.