DOHA (AFP): Qatar’s main international airport aims to pass a record 40 million passengers this year as the Gulf state seeks to build on staging the World Cup to bolster its reputation, its tourism chief said Sunday.
Hamad International Airport recorded 39.5 million passengers in 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic struck, and last week announced that with the World Cup in November and December, numbers had recovered to 35.7 million in 2022.
Tourism minister and Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al-Baker said capacity restrictions at the airport held back numbers last year.
“If we did not have shortage of capacity we would have exceeded the 2019 figures,” Baker told reporters on the sidelines of announcing a jewellery and watch show, the latest in a series of events aiming to draw international visitors.
“I am not satisfied with 39.5 million passengers,” he added.
“We are hoping that this year we will break a record in the numbers of passengers that will pass through Hamad.
“Keep in mind that there is no more FIFA (World Cup) so crossing that record number will really be a big achievement and a lot of pressure on Qatar Tourism to bring people,” he said.
The wealthy Gulf state is spending billions of dollars expanding capacity at Hamad airport to 70 million people a year and increasing Qatar Airways routes as it seeks to become a dominant player in international travel.
Arch-rival Dubai airport in the United Arab Emirates announced in November that it expected 64.3 million passengers in 2022.