DUBAI - Dubai's main airport recorded 22.9 million passengers in the third quarter, the highest quarterly traffic since 2019, operator Dubai Airports said on Wednesday, and is on track to surpass pre-pandemic numbers for the full year.

Total passenger traffic for the first nine months of 2023 at Dubai International (DXB), among the world's busiest, stood at 64.5 million, up 39.3% compared to the prior year period, and 1% above the same period in 2019.

Dubai Airports said it is forecasting annual passenger traffic to reach 86.8 million on strong growth throughout the year and an "exceptional surge" in numbers in the fourth quarter. In August, it had forecast 85 million passengers for 2023.

Buoyed by a swift economic rebound post-COVID 19, Dubai, the tourism and trade hub of the Middle East, has benefited from safe haven status amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict as well as relaxed residency ruled which have also boosted property prices.

"We’re thrilled but not entirely surprised that DXB is all set to surpass the pre-pandemic milestone well ahead of our initial projections by almost a year," Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports said. "Our outlook for the remainder of this year and the next remains optimistic."

The statement did not specify what would lead to a surge in passenger numbers in the fourth quarter, but the city-state will be host to the U.N.'s COP 28 climate summit starting Nov. 30.

India was DXB's top country destination to Sept. 30, with 8.9 million passengers, followed by Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom.

(Reporting by Rachna Uppal Editing by Mark Potter)