Emirates airliners are seen on the tarmac in a general view of Dubai International Airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai's state airport operator is forecasting 56 million passengers to pass through Dubai International next year, double its target for this year though still below pre-pandemic levels.
The airport, a major travel hub, has seen a rise in passenger traffic in recent weeks following the start of the peak summer travel season and an easing in travel restrictions for some core markets.
"This gives rise to a more optimistic forecast and we are looking at something like 56 million for the year to come," Dubai Airports Chief Executive Paul Griffiths told Reuters.
The airport handled 25.9 million passengers last year and 86.4 million in 2019, the year before the pandemic struck.
The operator on Wednesday reported 10.6 million passengers passed through Dubai International in the first half of this year, down 40.9% on the same period last year.
Griffiths said passenger traffic in recent weeks had been "much more positive" and the airport was now expected to end the year close to its 28 million passenger target, at around 26-27 million.
He said the operator was being conservative with its forecast for this year given many countries still impose travel restrictions and that it was focused on managing costs, balancing its budget and remaining cash positive.
Dubai International is one of the world's busiest airports and the hub for state-owned Gulf carrier Emirates. Its operations are reliant on international flights and it has no domestic market to cushion against international border closures or restrictions imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The United Arab Emirates this month eased restrictions on travel from several African and Asian countries, including key market India, while Britain, another important market, has moved the Gulf Arab state from its travel "red list" to "amber".
"There has been an absolute surge of bookings and huge numbers of people booking to go both directions to London, for example, and I think the UAE easing restrictions to places like India are steps in the right direction," Griffiths said.
Reporting by Alexander Cornwell Editing by Mark Potter