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ImageWhile the world is bracing for a big rise in air travel, North America will record the slowest growth in international passenger demand in the next four years, the group that represents the world’s airlines said Tuesday.

The International Air Transport Association says the region will see a 3.6 per cent compound annual growth rate during 2013-2017.

The Middle East will report the strongest — a growth of 6.3 per cent.

Overall, international passenger numbers are expected to rise from 1.2 billion in 2012 to 1.5 billion in 2017, bringing in 292 million additional passengers, IATA said.

With a rate of more than 10 per cent, Uzbekistan is the fastest growing market for international passenger traffic. Others are Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkey, Oman, China, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan and Pakistan.

The group also forecast that airlines expect to see a 31 per cent increase in total passenger numbers between 2012 and 2017.

“By 2017, total passenger numbers are expected to rise to 3.91 billion — an increase of 930 million passengers over the 2.98 billion carried in 2012,” the IATA Airline Industry Forecast said.

The United Arab Emirates, home of the high-flying carrier Emirates, will add 29.2 million passengers over the forecast period, nearly as many as China, IATA said.

“For international traffic, routes between the Middle East and Asia-Pacific will see the strongest growth.”

Routes within or connected to China will be the single largest driver of growth, accounting for 24 per cent of new passengers during the forecast period, IATA said.

“Of the anticipated 227.4 million additional passengers, 195 million will be domestic and 32.4 million will be international.”

With 677.8 million domestic passengers in 2017, the United States will continue to be the largest single market for domestic passengers, although it will add only 70 million passengers over the forecast period, IATA said.

IATA, which represents nearly 250 airlines, says the global aviation industry supports some 57 million jobs and $2.2 trillion in economic activity.