MEBA show sales expected to top $1 billion

 - November 15, 2008, 6:05 AM

MEBA organizers have declared themselves astonished by the impressive growth of the Middle East’s new biennial business aviation show. With 250 exhibitors from 29 countries along with 78 aircraft having converged here at Airport Expo Dubai this week, the 2008 edition will be 175 percent larger than the first show in January 2007.

But is this surprising given the explosion in demand for the convenience and comfort of private aviation over the past few years and the fact that by 2012 the value of this market is set to top $1 billion per year? In fact, there have already been predictions that new aircraft orders announced here at MEBA could be worth more than $1 billion–exceeding $907 million tally set at the 2007 show. Airbus alone is set to announce more than $400 million worth of sales here today.

According to Alison Weller, aerospace director with MEBA organizer Fairs & Exhibitions, the 2,500 pre-registrations logged suggests that visitor attendance could top 7,500 over the show’s three days–well ahead of the initial projection of 5,000 visitors. To put this in context, Europe’s second EBACE show in 2002 drew 219 exhibitors and just over 4,800 visitors.

MEBA 2008 will be opened this morning by HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed
Al Maktoum, president of Dubai’s Department of Civil Aviation and HE Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansoori, the minister of the economy for the United Arab Emirates. Their official tour will cover a show site that spans more than 107,000 square feet of exhibit space and 25 chalets.   

Middle East business aviation has grown markedly since MEBA 2007. In the last 12 months the region’s business aircraft fleet has increased by 30 percent, rising from 276 to 359 jets and turboprops.

The MEBA show is backed by the Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA), formed in June 2006. The group, which also covers North Africa, now has more than 100 members and is officially recognized by the International Business Aviation Council. The association offers membership to aircraft operators, suppliers of goods and services, and affiliate members.

MEBAA chairman Ali Al Naqbi said he expects the Middle East’s business aviation industry to double in size over the next six years. “Other [Middle Eastern] markets are growing outside the GCC [Gulf Co-Operation Council], but the main focus for now is on the GCC,” he said. “Western companies are flocking to the Middle East to take advantage of the growth.”