singapore air show 2016
A Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-15SG fighter aircraft performs a maneuver as it flies past an RSAF AH-64D Apache helicopter during a preview of the Singapore Airshow at Changi exhibition center in Singapore February 14, 2016. The airshow will take place from February 16-21

With Asia's biggest airshow kicking off in Singapore under the shadow of a slowing global economy, the city state's leaders are highlighting bright spots for the industry amid gloomy conditions.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said the oil price decline actually presents an opportunity to the aviation industry, allowing it to raise capital spending on new technologies.

Lower oil prices and rising demand for travel can be used to open the skies further, Tharman said.

"If we do this right, we can maximise the spillovers to growth in our own economies and globally... If we stick with the status quo, or worse drift into further protection, we will not only hamper the growth of aviation but weaken its potential to stimulate economic growth."

The deputy prime minister also said aviation industry is a crucial part of Singapore's economy, contributing about 6 per cent of the GDP, which is higher than in most other economies.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the longer-term outlook for aviation is actually very good.

Speaking at the airshow, which rolled into Singapore after a lackluster edition in Dubai in November, Khaw said there are bright spots for the aviation industry, especially in Asia, where airline travel is far reaching a saturation point.

There are "millions of Asians yet to fly - and they are eager to go the minister said.

Tony Tyler, IATA Director General, underscored this saying there will be 1.8 billion new travellers in the Asia-Pacific by 2034.

Airline industry leaders who look to close deals with southeast Asian airline companies are concerned over a faltering global economy and rising tensions in the South China Sea and the Korean peninsula.

Industry experts are not seeing any immediate impact on demand from Asia, which has been a steady growth driver for years. However, they are concerned if the demand growth would hit a cyclical decline.

"All the thoughts that this is no longer a cyclical industry have disappeared. We are due for a down-cycle. (But) I don't think there will be any impact in the next 18-24 months," aerospace consultant Jerrold Lundquist told Reuters.

"It is when you get beyond 24 months that you might see some softening."