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The arrival of US President George Bush in Dubai last month proved it doesn't take much to bring the emirate to a standstill.
COMMENT, Transportation

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The US President's arrival in Dubai last month proved it doesn't take much to bring the emirate to a standstill. To accommodate George W. Bush's visit on January 14, the government closed major roads, increased security and declared a national holiday.

Given Bush's history with Iraq, the measures taken to ensure his safety were warranted. But while his visit caused major disruptions across the emirate, it was "business as usual" for Dubai International Airport.

Officials at Dubai Civil Aviation (DCA) insist the hub operated as normal, although travellers were told to arrive earlier than usual. "We usually advise passengers to come two hours in advance, but are asking them to arrive a couple of hours earlier to avoid delays," a DCA representative said.

According to reports, flying out of Dubai wasn't a major issue. But reaching the hub proved an arduous task for some. With all major roads closed, holidaymakers were forced to endure lengthy diversions before reaching Dubai airport.
 

Whether accommodating a president is reason enough to put air travellers' collective noses out of joint is debateable. Nevertheless, it's hard not to sympathise with tourists whose holidays ended on a sour note - stuck in traffic queues near the airport.

If future visits involving world leaders are anything like Bush's recent jaunt, some passengers may think twice before travelling to the UAE. But recent figures suggest most people will continue making the journey.

Passenger numbers for Dubai airport climbed 15% for the sixth consecutive year, according to hub officials. During 2007, more than 34.4 million people travelled through the airport - up 19.3% compared with the previous year.

It's unclear whether passenger figures will continue increasing at the same rate. But with the DCA spending billions of dollars to extend the current hub and build a new one, the region's aviation authorities appear in little doubt.

Once renovations at Dubai airport are complete, its annual capacity is expected to triple to 75 million passengers. Aviation officials may be confident of securing huge numbers in the coming years. But if the forecasts prove inaccurate, the DCA will receive heavy criticism, despite investing huge sums.

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