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Away from the hype on the grand expansion plans of airports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, other smaller airports in the UAE are also witnessing growth.
There has been a steady increase in the number of passengers using the Sharjah International Airport and it is also set for a revamp to cater to the rising numbers. In 2013, the airport served 8.5 million passengers, a figure which is predicted to rise to more than 15 million passengers over the next 20 years due to steady economic growth in the region. Between 2012 and 2013, the Sharjah airport registered a 12 per cent growth, almost at par with the growth curve of Dubai International Airport which recorded a 12.4 per cent growth.
Situated further north is the Ras Al Khaimah International Airport. The airport suffered a setback in 2013 when RAK Airways, which had its hub there, suspended operations. But things are looking up with Sharjah-based low-cost airline Air Arabia planning to start operations in a couple of weeks. Once operational, RAK Airport will be connected to nine destinations. It handled around 500,000 passengers in 2013 though necessary infrastructure is in place to handle around 1.5 million passengers per year.
Tourism is likely to play a big role in the smaller airports in RAK and Fujairah getting busier. The number of tourists to have visited RAK in 2013 was estimated to be 1.2 million, up from 1.1 million in 2012. To cater to this rising number, RAK International Airport is being serviced by chartered flights from Russia.
Fujairah, located on the eastern side of the UAE, has also seen a surge in tourist inflows. Authorities at Fujairah International Airport are looking at over-flight connections to Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to attract more tourists from GCC countries. Currently, Fujairah has a solitary scheduled flight that connects it to Abu Dhabi.
* Sharjah airport had 12% passenger growth between 2012, 2013
* RAK airport has the capacity to handle 1.5 million passengers yearly
* Tourism a vital factor that will drive growth in smaller airports
Source: S. Dhar, Special to Properties
The writer is a freelancer