Believe in Jordan is the name of Queen Alia International Airport’s sleek new promotional video, and it is a sentiment now shared by
all 350 delegates who attended a truly memorable ACI Asia-Pacific Regional Assembly, Conference and Exhibition at the Dead Sea.
In truth, the conference was special before it began because it was the first time the Middle East had been chosen to hold the region’s annual gathering and the event marked the 10th anniversary of the unification of ACI’s former Pacific and Asia regions.
Throw in the extraordinary backdrop of the Dead Sea, the incredible hospitality of the Jordanian people, the Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Awards Ceremony and two days of lively debate and you had a winning formula that will be hard to beat in the future.
The theme of this year’s event was ‘Sustaining Aviation and Tourism Growth under Unprecedented Challenges’, something ACI Asia-Pacific president, Dennis Chant, reflected upon in his opening remarks.
“Tourism and aviation development go hand in hand, one impacting the other. However, tourism can be very vulnerable and easily affected by the countries’ policies and political stability,” he said.
“Airports in our region understand this intricate relationship between the two industries and the importance in supporting and facilitating international tourism within their own countries.”
He also had one or two words to say about the progress and development of the ACI Asia-Pacific region since its historic unification a decade ago.
“We’ve come a long way in ten years,” said Chant. “Asia-Pacific has become the major growth engine in the global aviation market and our membership has increased significantly, to almost 100 members operating close to 580 airports in 47 countries.
“With the support of the members and co-ordination by the Regional Office, we have achieved many milestones in the past 10 years. Indeed, as the only association in the region to represent airports’ interests, ACI Asia-Pacific is dedicated in ensuring that ACI’s mission to advance airports’ collective interests and to promote professional excellence is achieved.”
During her keynote address, Jordan’s Minister of Transport, Dr Lina Shbeeb, told delegates about the success of the country’s Open Skies policy and stated how much the government valued aviation and Queen Alia International Airport.
Arguably the highlight of the first day was the State of the Industry panel discussion about the Challenges and Opportunities in the Middle East involving Chant; Airport International Group CEO, Kjeld Binger; IATA’s area manager for
Levant and the near east, Murad Al Khatib; and His Excellency, Nayef Al-Fayez, Jordan’s Minister of Tourism and Antiquities.
Talking about the transformation of Queen Alia following the opening of its new terminal, Kjeld Binger said: “The new infrastructure was a huge step, of course. The new terminal is fabulous and has an amazing ambience, but it is just the start. You have to work with it and all the other stakeholders at the airport, hand-in-hand, to really make a difference and improve customer service.”
As reported in the last issue of APA, Kjeld repeated that one of the most popular customer service initiatives they have introduced at Queen Alia to date was to simply to get the airport’s security guards to replace their army uniforms with “more welcoming” blazers and trousers.
During her annual report at the ACI-Asia Pacific Regional Assembly, regional director, Patti Chau, noted that a number of successes over the past 12 months included establishing a Regional Economics Committee, building and enhancing ACI’s relationship and influence with ICAO and increased co-operation with other industry organisations such as the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) and IATA.
She said the number of airports undergoing Airport Excellence (APEX) in Safety reviews was on the rise as is the amount of Asia-Pacific gateways to be certified under ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation programme.
A fine first day ended with the Gala Dinner and ASQ Awards Ceremony at the Fishing club at the Marriott Hotel, where once again the region’s airports picked up the majority of the awards.
Not surprisingly the loudest cheers of the night were saved for home airport, Queen Alia, which won both the Best in the Middle East and the Best Improvement: Middle East categories.
Indeed, Queen Alia celebrated in style with over a dozen members of staff on stage posing for pictures, and they weren’t alone as Hyderabad, Taipei Taoyuan and Incheon all performed similar celebrations and it was smiles all round for over 25 airports receiving awards on the night.
Delegates actually had to wait until the very last session for the traditional conference highlight, the Leader’s Summit, which this year was about visions for the future and featured among others Sydney Airport’s chairman and former ACI Asia-Pacific president, Max Moore-Wilton, and ACI World chairman and president and
CEO of Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority, Rick Piccolo.
Moore-Wilton said he was optimistic about a bright future of the aviation industry but warned that commercial success – “making money, developing their product and finding their niche in the market” was vital for both airlines and airports if they are to survive and prosper in the long-term.
“At the end of the day I don’t think governments, populations and the travelling public will be prepared to subsidise carriers that cannot compete, and I take a very similar view with airports. If you are in the commercial business you have to find ways of competing,” he said.
“If smaller airports with the support of communities see becoming property developers as an opportunity to boost their commercial income then that is fantastic, because these are the communities that will prosper in the future.
“Those communities, airlines and airports that want to look backwards and talk about the good old days, if they ever existed, are the ones that are going to have a problem.”
Other sessions during the conference covered a wide variety of topics ranging from the next generation hub; airport collaborative decision-making (A-CDM); maintaining safety and operational efficiency and addressing emerging threats to maximising airport revenue.
Next year’s conference will be hosted by Queensland Airport Limited and held at the Gold Coast, Australia, on April 18-20, 2016. Dennis Chant and his team know that they have a hard act to follow!