Dubai Airport is the busiest for global travel as the virus persists

DUBAI – Dubai’s main airport said on Tuesday that it has retained its first place as the busiest in the world for international travel: last year about 29 million passengers passed through the global gateway.

Passenger figures in 2021 are encouraging to Dubai’s tourism economy, which is considered to be the most important link between East and West. The figures are a sign that international travel has increased somewhat after the coronavirus pandemic spawned unprecedented global blockades and border closures in 2020. Last year’s figure is a 12% increase in traffic at Dubai International Airport compared to 2020, where nearly 26 million passengers were registered.

However, even if 29.1 million passengers crossed through Dubai International Airport, or DXB, last year, that figure is not at all close to the pandemic of 86.4 million of the annual traffic that the airport recorded in 2019.

Dubai is is currently hosting a six-month World’s Fair, which was postponed for a year due to a pandemic. Expo 2020, which opened in October and will run until the end of March, has attracted millions of visitors as well heads of state, royal personalities and celebrities, helping to further solidify Dubai’s reputation as a global destination. It is unclear, however, what the overall contribution of the Expo was to Dubai’s economic recovery.


Just over 70% of the number of travelers to Dubai airport last year were newcomers, with most of them probably traveling to and from the emirate. Before the pandemic, about half of all passengers passed through Dubai.

Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said DXB predicts that 57 million travelers will arrive through the airport this year and a full recovery to pandemic figures by 2024.

“Dubai has done such a good job to reassure travelers. It is a safe city to visit and come, relax and do business. So I think the real trend towards recovery is very encouraging, ”Griffiths said.

This is the eighth year in a row that Dubai International Airport is among the busiest in the world for international travel, surpassing London Heathrow and Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta for global travelers, although the latter is one of the busiest in terms of overall passenger traffic.


The largest share of traffic in Dubai was in India – 4.2 million passengers, followed by Pakistan, where last year there were 1.8 million passengers. A key growth market for travel to and from Dubai is neighboring Saudi Arabia, which is actively working to attract business and tourism in direct competition with Dubai and the wider United Arab Emirates.

More than 100,000 British people live in the UAE. Last year, Dubai’s main airport brought in 1.2 million passengers from the UK, including 77,000 in December alone.

Dubai, by order of the aviation authorities of the United Arab Emirates, was forced to suspend all passenger flights and close its airports for eight weeks in the spring of 2020. Unlike the UAE capital Abu Dhabihowever, Dubai soon reopened its doors to travelers. Dubai does not require confirmation of vaccination against COVID-19 to enter and does not require a negative virus test to enter most places. This approach is not without costs. For most of last year, the UK, US and other countries have put the UAE on the red list of non-travelers.


“What we’re trying to do now is run a global campaign to ease travel restrictions and testing,” Griffiths said. “But now we see that the demand for this is receding. We just need to get governments to acknowledge this fact and act quickly to lift the rest of the travel restrictions. ”

Overall, coronavirus infection rates in the UAE remain relatively low. The country has aggressively vaccinated more than 9 million people against COVID-19, most of whom are foreigners, and all of them could get the vaccine for free.

While in Dubai masks in public places are still needed, a pandemic could otherwise feel unimpeded for life in the city-state. Only this week, Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic has appeared on the tennis court to participate in the Duty Free Tennis Championships in Dubai, his first tournament since being expelled from Australia and missed the first Grand Slam competition of the year due to his refusal to vaccinate against COVID-19.

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