NUMBERS of passengers flying into Bahrain dropped by 16 per cent last year due to the unrest in the country and instability in the Arab region. The number of people leaving Bahrain International Airport also declined by 15pc because of the Arab Spring and suspended flights to Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, according to latest figures compiled by the Civil Aviation Affairs (CAA).
Its Annual Statistics 2011 Report - Taking Aviation to Global Standards states that 7.8 million travelled through the airport last year - 12pc less than in 2010.
However, the average growth from 2000 to 2011 remained consistent at 8pc.
The report also stated that the "economic uncertainty" in Bahrain and suspension of routes by airlines were to blame for the decline in the number of passengers coming into the country.
"Passengers travelling within the Middle East and Africa regions declined by 43pc due to the effect of the Arab Spring through the region and reduced airline operations to Iran, Iraq and Lebanon," said the report.
It came on the sidelines of the opening of a two-day IATA Safety and Security Forum that was held yesterday at InterContinental Regency Bahrain.
The event is being organised by CAA and more than 70 delegates from airports, airlines and the aviation industry in the region are taking part in the symposium that focuses on IATA safety and security requirements, auditing programmes and unruly passengers.
The CAA report also revealed that Gulf Air carried nearly 5m passengers last year, 8pc less than in 2010, while Bahrain Air carried more than 500,000, a decrease of 21pc.
"The overall outlook for 2012 is one of modest growth as business activity and investment potential within the Middle East region begin to show some signs of recovery following the events of 2011, which has such significant impact on air traffic and cargo movements," said CAA under-secretary Captain Abdulrahman Mohamed Al Gaoud in the executive summary of the report.
The detailed report also revealed that Dubai continued to be the most popular destination with 1,071,096 passengers travelling from Bahrain last year followed by Doha, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and London.
Meanwhile, Gulf Air chief executive Samer Majali praised CAA's efforts to host the event, saying aviation safety was paramount for airlines across the region.
"There is no doubt airlines have competition on commercial aspects, but when it comes to the issue of safety all airlines co-operate," he said.
"It is a great sign that Bahrain is hosting this workshop that brings together industry experts and also helps the economy."
Bahrain Air chief executive Richard Nuttall said the airline was banking on pilgrimages to Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, but their plans were derailed due to flight cancellations.
"There is nothing at the moment," he said, when asked whether the flights would resume.
Mr Nuttall said since Bahrain was a small country, the airline was open to a merger with Gulf Air, saying it would help both parties to work together and benefit the economy as well as expand their operations.
Meanwhile, CAA Aviation Services assistant under-secretary Ahmed Nemat Ali revealed there were plans in the pipeline to introduce security measures that would save time for passengers.
He said the plans were being discussed with stake holders and if approved they would be implemented in the 2014 expansion project of Bahrain International Airport.
"We are expecting growth of about five per cent in passenger traffic this year and are positive to provide best services at our airport," he said.