In just a little more than six years since its founding, the Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA) has grown from a small regional organization to an influential shaper of business aviation’s future in 23 Middle East and North African countries. Thus far in 2012, MEBAA has added 25 new members, reaching a total of 195 during this year’s MEBA show–the organization’s fifth–which ends today.
The regional business aviation market is currently worth $493 million and is expected to reach the $1 billion mark by 2018, according to Ali Ahmed Al Naqbi, founding chairman of MEBAA. Regional business aviation traffic climbed 12 percent during 2012, and he expects the fleet of business aircraft to grow to 1,300 by 2020, up from today’s 500. “Quite simply,” he said, “there is a huge growth potential here.”
MEBA 2012 opened its doors on Tuesday with a record number of pre-registered attendees, more than 7,000, and MEBAA expected that number to be easily exceeded by the time the show ends. There were 34 aircraft on the static display, conveniently located on the ramp just outside doors at the end of the exhibit hall and flanked by major companies’ chalets. Although the plan was to hold the MEBA show inside a purpose-built exhibition hall, that building is still under construction so the show took over the new terminal building at Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central. The 2014 show will be in the new facility, as will next year’s Dubai Air Show.
While the shape of the Al Maktoum terminal made for an unusual layout for exhibitors, the result was a favorable flow of visitors, with people funneling past the stands in what seemed like a steady stream. At the UTC Aerospace Systems stand, business development specialist Mark Hulan said that the company had a great location. “We like the layout and the flow of traffic,” he said. “We’re really happy with that.”
“It’s been good,” said Nael Chehab, operations and sales manager for Executive Aircraft Services. “We like the new venue, and there’s been a concentration of people who we want to see.”
The only somewhat universal complaint about MEBA 2012 was the site’s distance from downtown Dubai. As the airport and its surroundings grow, local amenities should fill in some of the sandy desert surrounding Dubai World Central and visitors might not have to drive to hotels in downtown Dubai.
Al Naqbi took advantage of the MEBA show to reach out to MEBAA members and potential members, and during conference sessions urged the regional business aviation community to communicate with MEBAA. “Please tell us about the problems you are facing,” he said. One of MEBAA’s key issues, he added, is drafting a uniform set of business aviation policies and procedures that the 23 regional countries could agree on. “I’m very optimistic,” Al Naqbi concluded. o