A selection process for industry partners to set up bases at the new Abu Dhabi Airport Free Zone has begun.
The four million square metre zone, which is still awaiting its official Emiri decree, will be home to hotels, commercial and office space as well as light industry.
Mohammed Al Bulooki, Abu Dhabi Airports Company director of marketing and communication, told Emirates Business: "We are currently in discussion with a number of different industries interested in basing themselves in the Abu Dhabi free zone area. The planning process offers us greater flexibility to select industry partners. The process for the free zone area is well under way. However, we are still waiting for the decree before anything can move forward.
"As well as commercial space, the free zone will also be host to hotels, and discussions are currently ongoing with a number of international brands that have expressed interest in the development." The free zone is part of a major redevelopment project worth $6.8 billion (Dh25bn) to transform Abu Dhabi's airport into a world-class facility and to accommodate the increasing number of tourists visiting the emirate. In 2012, the emirate's tourism authority estimates 2.7 million tourists will visit Abu Dhabi.
Projects include a mid-field terminal that will increase capacity to 20 million passengers , an increase of six fold in comparison to the seven million that came through the terminal last year. A third terminal, exclusive to Etihad Airways, will begin to open in stages this year. Full building, retail and other operations will commence October of this year. The terminal will be able to accommodate five million passengers a year and will be fully operational by 2011.
When the entire project is complete in that year, the airport will be able to receive more than 40 million passengers, and has the ability to expand – due to its X-shaped design – to as much as 50 million travellers and 2.5 million tonnes of cargo annually.
The need for the expansion is evident as Abu Dhabi airport passenger traffic increased by 31 per cent in 2007. And in 2008, results show a 35 per cent rise in Q1 traffic, compared to the same quarter in the previous year.
The expansion will also support the growth of Etihad Airways' network as well as new foreign airlines. "The growth of the airport and in particularly the introduction of the Mid-Field Terminal Complex will expand capacity and support airlines in a number of ways," said Al Bulooki. "As well as the size of the complex simply permitting a greater and increasing number of passengers to be handled at the airport, the increase in the number of gates will clearly allow for a greater number of airlines to operate from Abu Dhabi International Airport."