The 11th Arab Aviation Summit advocates for strategic investment in technology, sustainability and a skilled workforce to secure the future of the industry

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The topics that dominated the discussions were the impact of technological advances and changes in consumer expectations, as well as the need for closer collaboration to stimulate sustainable investment in the aviation sector.

This edition of the Arab Aviation Summit (AAS) concluded yesterday at the Al Hamra International Exhibition and Conference Center in Ras Al Khaimah. Focusing on a wide range of critical industry topics, the region's premier aviation and tourism event also highlighted pressures from parts shortages and delivery delays, as well as the continued resilience of the aviation industry as it aims for recovery and growth the sector.

Theme "Exploring the Future of Travel"

Held under the theme "Exploring the Future of Travel", the 11th annual summit brought together industry professionals for two days of panel discussions, keynotes and networking events to share insights on the challenges and opportunities in the Middle East market, one of the fastest growing markets in the world.

The Role of Sustainable Fuel (SAF)

The sessions explored the sustainable growth of the sector in the context of current macroeconomic and geopolitical challenges. The role of sustainable fuel (SAF) in aviation's transition to a greener future was a central pillar of discussion throughout the event, as experts debated the most practical approaches industry stakeholders can take to achieve the goals of net zero emissions by 2050. Industry leaders also highlighted the growing skills gap in the sector and its implications for stakeholders as demand for travel grows.

The first day of the Arab Aviation Summit

The first day of the Arab Aviation Summit explored the emerging innovations and new technologies that are transforming the aviation industry, as well as the leading role of Middle Eastern airlines in setting global trends and shaping traveler behavior.

"With a record 1,22 million visitors in 2023 and a significant 24% growth in international arrivals, the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah is well positioned and well on its way to becoming a destination of the future”, said His Excellency Raki Phillips, Executive Director of the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, on the second day of the summit.

"The emirate's continued investment in increasing air connectivity, improving tourism infrastructure and developing an ecosystem anchored in the concept of sustainability further cements its status as the fastest growing destination in the region,” he added. “As demand for 'borderless' travel grows, the GCC Single Tourist Visa will be a game-changer, allowing more individuals and families to experience combined travel in the region."

The crucial role of the aviation industry and tourism as major contributors to the nations GDP

In his opening speech, Adel Ali, Chief Executive Officer of Air Arabia, highlighted the crucial role of the aviation and tourism industries as major contributors to nations' GDP and the largest generator of employment opportunities worldwide. It also emphasized that as new business models and technologies change the expectations and experiences desired by consumers, it is important to close the current skills gaps in the industry. "A collaborative and solution-focused approach to sustainability challenges and environmental impact, both on the ground and in the air, will be key to taking the sector to its next phase of growthHe added.

"Although the aviation sector is recovering from the disruption caused by the pandemic, it continues to face the reactive policies pursued by several countries during the global health crisis”, said Abdul Wahab Teffaha, Secretary General of the Arab Air Carriers Organization, noting that as supply chain challenges persist, inflation and global economic conditions continue to limit the free growth of the sector.

He added that in order to achieve sustainability goals, the need of the hour is to incentivize the use of clean energy instead of penalizing airlines, and adopting the digitalization of travel in all its phases will be crucial to closing the technological gaps in the sector.

"Aviation is an intrinsic part of tourism"

"Aviation is an intrinsic part of tourism”, said Julia Simpson, President and CEO of the World Tourism Council, calling for discussions with all the factors involved and urging collaboration to improve the sustainability of the sector.

"While the technological potential and regulatory frameworks associated with Sustainable Aviation Fuel are poised to drive the industry towards sustainable development, governments need to step up efforts with supportive policies and incentives and set the necessary trajectory to grow by 2050", she added.
With increasing demand for air travel worldwide, the cost efficiency and financial flexibility offered by aircraft leasing are crucial to drive growth in the sector, experts said at the summit.

Large orders and continued aircraft supply constraints have driven strong growth in the aircraft leasing market, said Steve Rimmer, CEO of Altavair, while Tariq Al Ghaziri, Deputy Executive Director of AviLease, said that in line with the strategy Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, the 18-month-old company is exploring all types of equity and aims to expand into the international market, targeting quality investment (GI).

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