As the first airport in the UAE, Sharjah enjoys an entire range of destinations and passenger access. With the launch of phase one of the airport, TravTalk interviewed HE Sheikh Faisal bin Saoud Al Qassimi, Director, Sharjah Airport Authority, on further strategies and developments.
Can you tell us about Sharjah Airport’s key performances for the first half of this year on passenger volumes, new routes, flight frequencies, existing services, developments and so on?
Sharjah is well known in the MENA region as being the cultural hub of the Middle East and a growing industrial hub. With the diverse culture of Sharjah and the rest of the UAE, Sharjah has managed to create a niche market with cultural tourism and the airlines that operate through Sharjah embrace and encourage the multiculturalism. There was an overall increase in both aircraft and passenger movements for the three quarters of this year 2018, with passengers crossing the 8 million mark with an increase of 6 per cent and aircraft movements reaching 35,128 with an increase of 5 per cent in comparison with the same period of last year. The increase in new routes, flight frequencies and holiday season at Sharjah Airport contributed to the positive airline and passenger traffic.
Sharjah Airport in co-ordination with the various stakeholders of the airport, besides our strategic partners are committed to ensure a pleasant travel experience for our passengers, while simultaneously maintaining the excellent reputation of the airport’s efficient, hassle-free and speedy procedures.
To what extent does Sharjah Airport serve as a growth engine for Sharjah and the region? How influential has it been in developing the emirate as a centre of trade, commerce and tourism?
The aviation sector has established itself as a vital contributor to the UAE’s economy, contributing around 14 to 15 per cent to the national gross domestic product. This contribution is projected to grow further in the coming years and as such justifies the country’s huge investment in airports and airline networks. Aviation provides the only rapid worldwide transportation network, which makes it essential for global business. It generates economic growth, creates jobs, and facilitates international trade and tourism. Aviation and logistics have had a major impact on other economic sectors such as tourism, hospitality, trade and finance, with activity in one spurring growth in the others. The air transport sector had proven its positive contribution to the national and local economy.
The last 15 years had shown an increasingly growing segment in terms of passenger movement, aircraft movement and cargo handled with an average 7 to 12 per cent annually. This was mainly driven by the state-of-theart infrastructure facility of the airport, high level of services rendered to the airline community and the end users of passengers and cargo handled. This was also combined with easy and user-friendly legislations, practical procedures and processes to ensure smooth and hassle-free operations in Sharjah Airport.
What is the airport’s long-term objective and development plan? What will you do to contribute to Sharjah Tourism Vision 2021?
Sharjah Airport is coping with the ever-growing demands of airport users by continuous developments, investments in airport infrastructure, equipment and technology to cater to Sharjah tourism’s vision as Sharjah Airport is the first window for tourists visiting Sharjah.
Tour operators and travel agents are an integral part within the chain of the aviation industry. We believe that it is vital for our success to have mutual beneficial partnerships between Sharjah Airport and the global travel agents, especially that we are witnessing a growing trend of mergers and acquisitions between the charter airlines and global tour operators.
This in result is creating new entities in the travel market that we are looking forward to attract to come and discover the unique flavours of Sharjah as a destination and the facilities and services of Sharjah Airport as one of the gateways to UAE.