About 380,000 passengers have passed through Ras Al Khaimah International Airport (RKT) so far in 2021. But if its new CEO is successful, by 2025 RKT will serve nearly three times that number, and many of those passengers will have bypassed the largest in the United Arab Emirates. airports entirely.
Atanasios Titonis, who took over from Sanjay Khannah two months ago, also envisions the airport finding niches in freight rather than directly competing with its neighboring giant, Dubai International Airport (DXB).
After the 1 million target, Titonis says traffic via RKT will increase at a faster rate than the 5-10% projected by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). This was the standard growth expected before the COVID-19 pandemic, based on the expectation of an increase in the airport’s market share.
Doubling the capacity of an airport in a short period is an ambitious challenge, but Titonis says it is possible to build a terminal for 2 to 3 million passengers in the United Arab Emirates in that time.
With the goal of attracting 3 million tourists per year by 2030, the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah announced earlier this year that it will invest $ 136 million in 20 sustainable tourism initiatives.
Titonis wants to see these tourists fly direct, and one of the first steps he has taken towards this goal is to improve the airport’s connectivity with a bus service that now shuttles from the airport to the city. of Ras Al Khaimah.
âOur market share is very low. Most of the tourists who come to Ras Al Khaimah go to Dubai.
We need to work closely with the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA); we will work closely with them when they enter into agreements with the tour operators, and then we [together] approach the airlines to get them to RAK, instead of letting the charters fly to Dubai. This is one of the main areas in which we have to work, âhe said.
Titonis targets various markets to increase airport traffic. Topping the list are blue collar workers from the subcontinent, but business travelers and expatriates from Egypt are also a significant clientele. The airport is already connected to three Egyptian cities, and Titonis hopes to expand it to five or even seven.
Tourists from Saudi Arabia are another target, as are those from major European markets such as Germany and Italy, as well as from Africa, particularly Ethiopia and Sudan, which have populations of ‘expatriates in the United Arab Emirates. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is also a “very interesting market”, according to Titonis, with Kazakh transporter SCAT fly to the airport since the beginning of this year.
Regarding freight services to RKT, Titonis stressed the importance of finding its niche to compete with the main UAE airlines. “Live animals, we already have them at the airport,” he said. âI see a niche in dangerous goods management, so we need experts. If you have a big competitor, you develop and work in your niche, âhe said.
Maintenance Repair and Operations (MRO) is another area of ââpotential growth for RKT. âWe have already started talking to three large companies to build this maintenance facility at our airport,â he said, noting that talks are still ongoing, but that he hoped to have a company in place there. airport by the middle of next year. .
Titonis believes that RKT’s âboutiqueâ size can be of benefit to customers, allowing them to reach the beach only 45 minutes after landing. âIn general, we want to be a boutique airport; we want to be a catalyst for businesses like low cost airlines, but also for airlines like Gulf Air. At a small airport, you still have the benefit of fast processes. We must use this advantage.
(Report by Imogen Lillywhite, edited by Seban Scaria)
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Â© ZAWYA 2021