Airport development in the ME is BIG business

Until the global recession kicked into high gear, the cargo side of the airline business in the Middle East was expanding at a very healthy pace with governments across the region racing to built impressive new freight infrastructure projects.

Among the market drivers pushing this expansion was a growing population with a very fast-growing young demographic segment eager to buy foreign-made products, combined with a rapidly growing tourist industry populated by travellers who expect to consumeforeign-made products.

Market liberalisation and ‘open sky’ agreements with neighboring countries (especially UAE, Lebanon, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar) also resulted in a rise of direct cargo services, which combined with the regional geographic advantage of being in medium range proximity to both Europe and Asia, provided healthy cargo flows.

The region also became obsessed with airport infrastructure projects to accommodate larger aviation traffic being driven by the dynamic expansion of the local and regional economies.

Although it is hard to know in early 2009 which airport projects will slow more than others, how did the airport modernisation effort in the Mideast look before the economic dynamic changed so dramatically?

Bahrain is moving full steam ahead with building, upgrading and expanding several key transportation hubs. Although the credit crunch is slated to cause some completion dates to be revised, the year 2009 will mark a milestone for the country’s primary infrastructure projects.

Construction activity on the Qatar- Bahrain Bridge is due to begin by the end of this month, according to a spokesperson from the Qatar- Bahrain Causeway Foundation, a joint government body overseeing the bridge’s construction. Billed as the world’s longest marine causeway, the “Friendship Causeway” – estimated at a total cost of US$3 billion – is touted as one of the most important infrastructure projects in the region.