The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced a 6.3% rise in growth rate in air travel demand during 2016.

The association said on Thursday that compared to the ten-year average growth rate in revenue passenger kilometers (RPK) of 5.5%, 2016 was well ahead.

IATA’s Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac said that 2016 saw improvement in destination connectivity and more affordable return fares.

“Air travel was a good news story in 2016. Connectivity increased with the establishment of more than 700 new routes. And a $44 fall in average return fares helped to make air travel even more accessible. As a result, a record 3.7 billion passengers flew safely to their destination. Demand for air travel is still expanding,” said de Juniac.

In his statement, de Juniac also offered an insight into the challenges facing the industry, and the need for cooperation between governments and the industry in order to accommodate the growing demand.

“The challenge for governments is to work with the industry to meet that demand with infrastructure that can accommodate the growth, regulation that facilitates growth and taxes that don’t choke growth.”

The market that saw the highest regional growth in 2016 was, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Middle East, with an RPK growth of 11.8%. With major hubs like Dubai and Doha, Middle East carriers such as Emirates and Qatar are claiming an ever tightening grip on the international market share, consolidating its position as the third largest market for international passengers.

Africa saw it’s best growth since 2012 at 7.4%, with strong demand on routes to and from Asia and the Middle East.

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