Regional and international stakeholders in the Arab aviation industry set the momentum for the sustainable growth of aviation as the milestone 10th edition of the Arab Aviation Summit (AAS), concluded at Al Hamra International Exhibition & Conference Centre in Ras Al Khaimah. At the region’s leading aviation and tourism event, industry leaders also called for renewed commitments to reduce emissions and implement decarbonisation strategies for the sustainable growth of the sector.
Three strategic multi-stakeholder agreements were signed during the event, reinforcing the summit’s growing importance as a platform for facilitating public-private cooperation and opening doors for regional and global partnerships. An agreement between Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) and the FTI Group in Germany now paves the way for greater air connectivity between the two destinations. A state-of-the-art vertiport will be established for the first time in Ras Al Khaimah in an agreement signed between VPorts and Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) Airport. VPorts is further securing the future of Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) by building and operating the AAM World Integrator World Centre in Dubai in partnership with Electra.aero, Falcon Aviation and SkyDrive.
Held under the theme, ‘Impactful sustainability in modern-day travel and tourism’, the three-day summit brought together some of the best minds in aviation who explored the role of sustainable aviation as a catalyst for driving growth and prioritising climate action in the Middle East market, one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world. With the regional fleet set for a significant expansion over the next decade, experts and thought leaders shared insights on challenges and opportunities and called on greater public-private sector cooperation to transition the sector to a greener future. Efficiency and practical approach towards sustainability in aviation were a key pillar in all discussions and the inclusion of the entire aviation echo-system in the air and on the ground. Net zero goals in the industry were at the forefront of panel discussions on the main day of the summit as industry stalwarts highlighted the role of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) and the value of collaboration in strengthening the growth of the sector.
Discussions on the opening day of the summit centred on the need for providing quality training as the region experiences a surge in demand for aviation professionals and to ensure that the next generation of aviation workforce is work-ready.
Delivering the keynote address, H.H. Sheikha Mozah bint Marwan Al Maktoum, First Lieutenant Pilot at Dubai Police HQ, made an impassioned call for inclusivity in the aviation industry, stating that a shift in the current narrative could be achieved with increased representation that could further empower young females to identify growing opportunities in the sector. Paying tribute to the women pioneers who shattered glass ceilings in the aviation industry from as early as the 18th century, the Emirati aviator added that her initiative, Shehana - Women in Aviation Association, aims to attract greater female participation in the sector.
In his opening remarks, Adel Al Ali, Arab Aviation Summit Chairperson and Group Chief Executive Officer of Air Arabia, pointed out that despite the manifold challenges, the past three years had been a critical learning curve and demonstrated the resilience of the industry. Mainstreaming sustainable practices and technologies across the aviation industry would be critical to address the climate impact challenges, he said, while also calling for greater collaboration amongst all stakeholders to deliver sustainable solutions to meet the growing demand for travel worldwide.
Highlighting the synergies between aviation and tourism in promoting job creation, boosting GDP, and driving visitor numbers, H.E. Raki Phillips, Chief Executive Officer, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, emphasised that the Emirate is on track to becoming the first sustainable tourism destination in the region in 2025. To make greater sustainable impact, it is vital to choose partnerships that will lead the industry into the future, he added.
Delivering the guest country keynote, H.E. Irena Georgieva, Deputy Minister of Tourism, Republic of Bulgaria, reinforced the interdependent nature of aviation and the tourism industry, and stated that working hand in hand is imperative in the pursuit of sustainable development for both the sectors. Expressing interest in establishing strong ties with countries in the Middle East, she added that the wise and responsible management of the travel and tourism industries would benefit all of humanity.
Khaled Al-Eisawi, Area Manager Gulf & Near East, IATA, commended the alignment among stakeholders in the aviation sector in accelerating efforts to meet net zero goals, stating that this shared vision was a commitment to future generations. Significantly boosting production of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) is fundamental to achieving these goals, he said, while calling on governments to introduce policies to incentivise production to ensure that cost-wise, SAF is on par with jet fuels.
Aradhana Khowala, Chair of the Global Advisory Board, Red Sea Global, opined that SAF is only one of the solutions to decarbonise the sector and called for long-term solutions such as developments in battery technologies and enhanced operational efficiencies. She added that tax rebates and incentives initiated by governments will make a more positive impact in the sustainable transition of the sector.
Mikail Houari, President, Airbus Africa Middle East, said that under the market forecast for the region, 3,000 new aircraft are expected to take to the skies by 2040, of which 40 per cent are to be replacements for existing fleet, underpinning the region’s commitment to sustainability as a key pillar to grow the sector.
Edward O’Byrne, Chief Executive Officer at AviLease pointed out that under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, the company is contributing to the nation’s rapidly growing aviation ecosystem, and is doing it in responsible way, by investing in and committing to sustainable offerings to support decarbonisation in the aviation industry.
John Kelly, President - Middle East, Türkiye and Africa (META), Rolls Royce, said that with a growing demand among passengers to fly sustainably, decarbonisation of the skies could be achieved through clean fuels and emerging technologies that could potentially lead to 50 per cent lower emissions.
Hosted in collaboration with Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, AAS 2023 is the world's first aviation and tourism event to calculate carbon emissions. The event is supported by global industry partners such as Airbus, CFM, Collins Aerospace, Turkish Teknik, T3 Aviation Academy, and others.