Good to be back!
The 18th ACI Asia-Pacific Regional Assembly, Conference and Exhibition in Kobe, Japan, marked a strong return for ACI Asia-Pacific’s annual event, writes Sunil Subbaiah and Yuman Lau.
The 18th ACI Asia-Pacific Regional Assembly, Conference and Exhibition provided the perfect opportunity for us to reconnect with our members and industry colleagues, and it didn’t disappoint.
Indeed, based on our experience and the positive feedback we have received from delegates and speakers, the event was a resounding success. Not only was it a fantastic showcase of products and services for airports, but it also gave excellent insights from all of the panelists.
It was very well attended, with more than 400 delegates making their way to Kobe, many of whom commented on the great atmosphere and the quality content of the conference programme.
We are grateful to all of our delegates and speakers for making this event truly memorable and, in particular, would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to our host, Kansai Airports, for their extraordinary efforts in hosting this conference.
THE APPROACH TO NET ZERO
The event actually started with a pre-conference workshop called ‘Airports’ Approach to Net Zero in Asia Pacific & Middle East’ on May 16. It was a pleasure to see that airports in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East are working towards exploring potential pathways towards net zero by implementing energy efficiency measures.
The workshop was a huge success, with experts from across the region and beyond offering their insights and ideas on how to achieve the net zero carbon emission objective. We thank the speakers for sharing their expertise and best practices with us.
WELCOME AND OPENING REMARKS
ACI Asia-Pacific president, Emmanuel Menenteau, and Yoshiyuki Yamaya, representative director CEO of Kansai Airports, were among those to welcome delegates on Day 1 of the conference.
In his opening remarks Menenteau – a former co-CEO of Kansai Airports – said: “This conference provides a perfect opportunity to discuss pathways for development and exchange knowledge to build on the forward momentum, with an aim to put our region back at the forefront of global aviation.
“The Asia-Pacific and the Middle East regions are home to many popular tourist destinations, which are expected to continue to attract visitors from around the world, driving demand for air travel.”
As part of the conference opening, Stefano Baronci, director general of ACI Asia-Pacific delivered his key note, titled ‘Reflections’. His speech focused on the role that Asia-Pacific plays today and will, in the future, in an environment where risks and opportunities appear to be inextricably intertwined. He suggested that if the future challenges resembled those of the COVID-19 pandemic, the potential solutions might require a rethinking of strategy and approaches.
The DG also used his time at the podium to remind everyone that despite suffering severe financial losses, the region’s airports continue to deliver superior services to passengers.
Baronci noted that passenger volumes across the region are expected to skyrocket in the coming years, which would eventually place a strain on existing facilities and necessitate either the modernisation and expansion of current terminals or the construction of new ones.
Either option would, of course, require more investment from airport operators, as will the industry’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. He admitted that the scenario would inevitably lead to some airports raising their fees to offset these additional costs.
LEADERS DIALOGUE AND CHINA’S IMPACT ON THE WORLD
The conference began with a session called ‘Leader’s Dialogue – Transforming the Industry’ which involved Nicolas Notebaert, CEO of VINCI Concessions and president of VINCI Airports being interviewed by former BBC Anchor, Sharanjit Leyl.
Everything from how airports weathered the challenges to the best way to build a smart and future-ready ecosystem was covered in the entertaining and informative 45 minute discussion.
The first morning ended with a section called ‘Interview With The Expert: China’s Impact on The Region and the World’, featuring Xiaomei Li, secretary general of the China Civil Airports Association and Joanna Lu, head of consultancy for Asia at Ascend by Cirium.
Li enlightened the audience about China’s impact on the region and the world from the air transportation point of view.
One of the first sessions of the afternoon was a debate called ‘Connectivity, Recovery and Beyond’.
It involved PwC’s Simon Booker and Edward Clayton decoding the key findings of our study on connectivity, before industry leaders that included Melbourne Airport CEO, Lorie Argus, and Fukuoka International Airport’s general manager, Yosuke Shigemori, considered the opportunities and challenges in the short and medium-term that are associated with the recovery and development of air connectivity.
THE 35TH ACI ASIA-PACIFIC BOARD MEETING
During the 18th ACI Asia-Pacific Regional Assembly, Conference and Exhibition, we had the opportunity to meet with our Board Members and, among other things, pass a new resolution.
The new resolution is designed to promote, restore and develop air connectivity in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East to ensure social and economic development as well as support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
It emphasises the importance of fully restoring and further developing air connectivity in the region, recognising the essential role that airports – served by efficient and affordable air connectivity – can play in driving economic growth and social development.
Between 2019 and 2022, there was a significant drop in the number of direct routes, flight frequencies and available seat capacity in Asia-Pacific as a result of the global COVID-19 crisis. In contrast, airports in the Middle East fared much better and subsequently have recovered much faster, especially at the region’s large international airports.
Considering the fact that the aviation sector generates economic value and supports employment besides boosting trade, tourism, education and foreign investments, ACI Asia-Pacific believes that a holistic approach is required to create fertile ground for the industry to grow. This should include:
- Boosting connectivity by further liberalising international aviation markets.
- Given strong growth outlook and ensuing congestion, re-thinking the model of optimising the use of existing infrastructure (through slots allocation, modernised and more flexible charging system).
- Incentivising funding and financing of airport infrastructure with a reasonable return on investment.
- Urging governments to simplify and streamline visa process for inbound international travellers, where applicable.
- Compliance with environmental and other sustainability objectives, including reducing CO2 emissions in compliance with the long-term global aspirational goal (LTAG) for international aviation of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Commenting on the resolution, ACI Asia-Pacific president, Emmanuel Menanteau, said: “Connectivity is a critical enabler for social and economic wealth. Restoring air connectivity in the Asia-Pacific region and the development of more routes in the Middle East is essential to support the recovery of their economies.
“This resolution reaffirms the commitment of the airport community of Asia-Pacific and the Middle East to work together with national and regional authorities in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner for the benefit of passengers as well as local communities served by the airports.”
While Baronci noted: “Asia-Pacific is resurging after three complex years. Modernising the sector means critically assessing what can be done differently, and better, through a close dialogue between institutional and industry stakeholders.
“Following the model of the first bloc-to-bloc air transport agreement between the EU and the ASEAN States and the recent Summit between India and the EU, we call upon States to implement a more liberalised market and strengthen co-operation and harmonisation on safety, security, environmental protection and ATM optimisation. This will require sense of leadership and significant investment, but also building capacity and expertise. At all levels, ACI Asia-Pacific is keen to provide its contribution through this process of transformation.”
A handful of new board members were elected at 18th ACI Asia-Pacific Regional Assembly. The new additions are Musad Abdulaziz Aldaood, CEO of Riyadh Airport Company; Nguyen Duc Hung, deputy general director of Airports Corporation of Vietnam; and Sarah Samuel, senior vice president for airport and airline operations at ICM Airport Technics (an Amadeus subsidiary), who joins as World Business Partner (WBP) director.
Fred Lam, CEO of Airport Authority Hong Kong; Dato’ Iskandar Mizal Mahmood, managing director of Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB); and SGK Kishore, executive director of GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd (GHIAL) have been nominated to represent ACI Asia-Pacific on the ACI World Governing Board.
Andrew Perrier, group business development director at Almusbah International Holdings LLC, has also been elected to serve as WBP representative for Asia-Pacific and the Middle East on the ACI World WBP Advisory Board.
We congratulate the new members and gratefully acknowledge the contributions of outgoing members Nitinai Sirismatthakarn (Airports of Thailand) and the long serving Greg Fordham (Airbiz Aviation Strategies Pty Ltd) for their contributions.
ENGAGEMENTS WITH WORLD BUSINESS PARTNERS
Our World Business Partners (WBP) Breakfast with CEOs session, sponsored by JT International SA, got Day 2 of the ACI Asia-Pacific Regional Conference & Exhibition in Kobe off to a lively and fulfilling start.
The WBP Programme offers a one-of-a-kind platform to assist commercial firms, associated with the aviation sector to maximise their business connections and expertise in the airport industry.
WBP members and airport leaders exchanged ideas and discussed prospective collaborations during the breakfast event. It also provided a place for networking with like-minded individuals and getting vital insights into current industry trends and opportunities.
The session, moderated by Airbiz founder and managing director, Greg Fordham, covered a broad range of topics. Sarah Samuels, our new Board Director (WBP Representative), and Andrew Perrier (Regional Representative on ACI World’s WBP Advisory Board) were also present.
FOCUS ON SUSTAINABILITY
The second day of the conference began with an address from FTI Consulting Melbourne’s senior director, David Whitely, about ‘Recovery, Growth and the Path to Net Zero in an ESG-Focused World’, before former ACI World director general and current president of SUSA, Angela Gittens, moderated a session titled ‘Can Small & Regional Airports Recover in an Economically Sustainable Manner?’.
Joining the always engaging Gittens on stage were Cyril Girot, CEO of Cambodia Airports; Jean-Michel Ratron, director general of Aeroport de Tahiti (ADT); and Nikau Tangaroa, CEO of Airport Authority Cook Islands.
The speakers discussed how some of the small and regional airports in the region managed their way through the global pandemic, and their recovery strategies in restoring air connectivity and competitiveness in an economically sustainable manner.
They were followed by an insightful session on ‘Green Airports, Green Tourism – a New Way to Do Business?’ that was once again moderated by Leyl, who spoke to Kiran Jain, COO of Noida International Airport, and Michael White, the aviation business development and commercial contracts director for Red Sea International Airport.
Both shared perspectives on the sustainability plans for their yet to open new airports as well as the significant economic and social benefits they wil provide.
THE HUMAN TOUCH
The final panel session of the conference turned the spotlight on human resources and people development.
There’s no doubting that the travel industry was in a ‘survival mode’ during the darkest days of the pandemic, and aviation has yet to fully recover from COVID’S devastating impact on the world.
Arguably, HR leaders cemented their indispensability during the crisis as corporates navigated for change, redefined their priorities, updated business models and worked to transform themselves to meet the ever-changing challenges head on.
Dato’ Iskandar Mizal Mahmood, managing director of MAHB; Mari Ruiz-Matthyssen, chief people experience and marketing officer of Australia Pacific Airports Corporation Limited; Jonathan Song, global director of business development at Plaza Premium Group; and Yuan-Hung Ting, director of human resources at Taoyuan International Airport Corporation Limited, addressed some of the HR issues facing airports today in the session entitled ‘People Development in Corporate Strategy: Where to Innovate Post Pandemic’.
The panel examined the travel industry’s human capital shift, the diversified role of HR, re-energising the workforce and building a people-centric sustainability strategy.
EXHIBITOR INNOVATION AND JAPANSE CULTURE
A total of 25 exhibitors showcased their innovative products and services to the over 400 delegates who attended the 18th ACI Asia-Pacific Regional Assembly, Conference & Exhibition in the beautiful port city of Kobe.
On the sidelines, the event also provided the opportunity to showcase the country’s rich customs and traditions through cultural performances, such as demonstrations of ancient Japanese art and music at both the Welcome Reception and Gala Dinner sponsored by host, Kansai Airports, and the Japan Art and Culture Strategy Organization (JACSO).
ACI AWARD WINNERS
The Conference concluded with a number of award ceremonies. First up was the announcement that MAHB’s Noor Sabrina was the winner of the ACI Asia-Pacific Young Executive Award 2023. Not being able to make it to Japan, Malaysia Airports’ managing director, Dato’ Iskandar Mizal Mahmood, received the honour on her behalf.
Delegates then got to celebrate with the 12 airports honoured in ACI Asia-Pacific’s Green Airports Recognition 2023 programme. Each was recognised for achieving exceptional results in their efforts to eliminate single-use plastics on campus.
It was also an occasion to recognise the accredited airports in ACI’s pioneering Airport Carbon Accreditation programme.