At a special session during the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference, Dubai Airports' chief executive officer, Paul Griffiths, told Cable News Network's John Defterios that to complete the growth in hotels and tourism infrastructure, there was a pressing need to increase airspace capacity across the Gulf region.

"We will have the accommodation on the ground but what we must address is the very real challenge of airspace capacity," he said. "This means unlocking current 'no fly' zones around the GCC which potentially pose a fundamental barrier to growth."

Griffiths acknowledged it was not an issue that countries could solve independently and called for intra-regional co-operation. He stated that if this was not addressed it could prove a significant problem for Dubai and the region as a whole.

Turning to the imminent launch of Terminal 3 at Dubai International, Griffiths declined to give a confirmed opening date, saying a 'big bang' was the worse possible scenario in terms of opening a complex operation such as an airport.

"Bangkok, Hong Kong, Heathrow Terminal 5 all suffered problems in this respect," he said. "Terminal 3 will open when it is ready.''

Griffiths also said that over-capacity in the Gulf region was a possibility, given the expansion at airports in Abu Dhabi, Doha and other destinations. He said, however, that there is a global need for more airports, more runways and more terminals.

"Dubai needs more airport capacity and we must supply it if the emirate is to remain it a success," he said, while raising some doubt as to whether the existing international airport would continue to operate once the Al Maktoum International facility at Dubai World Central is fully operational.

"Our challenge is building to cope with continued 20 per cent annual growth in passenger numbers," he said. "It is a big assumption that Dubai will always be a two-airport city."

In the interim, Griffith promised superior service, reaffirming the commitment of Dubai Airports to service, as part of the hospitality sector rather than just an infrastructure facility.

"We are an extension of the hospitality industry and we are there to provide service, second to none," he said.