Global Airport Traffic Growth Is Being Driven By Emerging Economies

Skift Take

Global economic trends dictate annual growth for air travel and tourism, and regional booms or slumps have a similar impact on all aspects of the industry. Emerging nations will continue to trump the growth of developed economies in terms of travelers, flyers, and the money the spend.

— Samantha Shankman

Air traffic is on the rise in tandem with tourism worldwide. And similar to tourism, passenger growth was driven by emerging markets that made up for slow or stagnant growth in advanced economies.

Airports worldwide saw more than 5.7 billion passengers pass through their terminals in 2012, a 4.4 percent increase boosted by developing nations.

The 2012 World Annual Traffic Report by Airports Council International (ACI) collected data from 1,598 airports in 159 countries, which resulted in the following takeaways:

  • All six regions reported air traffic growth in 2012, but as the below chart outlines, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, and Africa saw significant gains while Europe and North America reported very slight growth.
  • International traffic grew at nearly double the rate (+5.7 percent) of domestic air travel (+3 percent).
  • Air traffic was not evenly distributed throughout worldwide airports. Sixty-five percent of airports gained flyers ¬†at an average rate of 7 percent, while 35 percent of airports lost air traffic at a rate of -4.3 percent.
Region Aircraft Movements % Change Passengers % Change Cargo % Change
Africa 2,671,813 0.8 163,302,610 6.1 18,451,173 -0.2
Asia-Pacific 15,441,854 6.5 1,685,367,153 8 33,845,411 1.3
Europe 20,041,817 -2.5 1,614,933,901 1.7 17,798,008 -2.4
Latin America-Caribbean 8,390,670 3.5 444,399,160 7.6 5,036,090 -0.1
Middle East 2,366,870 6.3 253,810,113 13 5,865,035 4.3
North America 30,101,663 -1.4 1,562,073,726 1.3 28,138,374 0.8
World 79,014,687 0.6 5,723,886,663 4.4 92,524,090 0.5

Forward-Looking Trends

Global passenger traffic grew 3 percent in the first five months of 2013, and ACI statistics predict that growth will not exceed or even hit the 4.4 growth rate attained in 2012.

The Middle East’s rapid growth will undoubtedly be impacted by conflict in Egypt and slowed economic growth of emerging nations including China, Brazil, and India. This combined with continued uncertainty in the U.S. and Europe indicates that air travel will increase, but at a slower pace than seen in 2012.

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