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Director general, Stefano Baronci, reflects on the impact of COVID-19, ACI Asia-Pacific’s recent virtual Regional Board meeting and Assembly, new Strategic Plan and a host of other issues.

From a period of sustained passenger traffic growth in 2019 to the halfway point of 2020, the industry is now in survival mode, crippled by the loss of passenger traffic and revenues by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The second quarter of this year saw the pandemic really take hold globally, and to say the least, the impact has shocked our industry to its core, with ACI forecasting that COVID-19 will cost our region’s airports around $36.4 billion in revenue and some two billion passengers in 2020.

As you would expect, ACI Asia-Pacific has initiated a number of activities to support our members during these most challenging of times.

These include the assembly of a COVID-19 Task Force made up of more than 30 representatives from member airports and World Business Partners. In a short amount of time, the Task Force produced a number of helpful materials to document the measures taken by airports and the impact on operations.

Many of you have also engaged with our Economics team to provide input for a new Weekly Traffic Tracker. Receiving this preliminary data from you has proven enormously helpful as it has allowed us to tell the world about the significant decline in traffic and the potential consequences for our region. 

Leveraging the power of social channels, our communications team has amplified the variety of measures our airport members have undertaken, and continue to undertake, to ensure the safety of passengers and staff from COVID-19.

A Communicators’ Network, consisting of public relations and communications professionals, was created to enhance the sharing of news and information. We have also significantly increased our media outreach issuing press releases and conducting interviews with both trade and mainstream media to show the dramatic impact on airports.

We’ve also stepped up our advocacy efforts reaching out to governments and regulators of numerous countries to highlight the impact of the pandemic on the sector and providing recommendations for relief efforts.

As I write this article, we are rapidly approaching the third quarter, and with somewhat of a sense of relief, I believe that we are starting to see signs of recovery.

Domestic traffic in some countries is resuming and traffic corridors, or bubbles, are being established. However, international travel remains of concern with travel bans still in effect in many parts of the world, hampering the recovery.

Suffice to say the recovery period will be lengthy, and we have to remain focused to regain the confidence of travellers and encourage them to take to the skies again.

Virtual Board meeting and regional Assembly

Despite our best efforts, we weren’t able to keep the 15th ACI Asia-Pacific Regional Assembly, Conference & Exhibition on the 2020 calendar, as in conjunction with host, Kansai Airports, we made the difficult decision to cancel the conference and exhibition portions of the event.

It was a huge disappointment for all concerned, but I’ve no doubt that we will have the honour of Kansai Airports hosting our annual flagship event in the future.

As a result of the decision, the annual Assembly for members, an essential meeting for airports and other stakeholders to engage with our association, was transformed into a virtual event using video conferencing technology.

Prior to the virtual Assembly, the Regional Board conducted its spring meeting – postponed from April to June – as this was the first opportunity for members to meet the new ACI World director general, Luis Felipe de Oliveira.

A key agenda item was the review and approval of our Strategic Plan for the period 2020-2023. When we issued a survey to our airport members and World Business Partners to gain input on the new strategic plan, the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic had not shown itself yet.

It quickly became clear that business as usual was not an option and the plan would need to be flexible to adapt to the crisis, without jeopardising the long-term goals of the association.

The Board concurred to put the focus for the period 2020-2023 on the elements of advocacy, communications and evolving the capacity of ACI Asia-Pacific to strategically align with the interest of our members.

In the short-term or until aviation’s recovery stabilises, ACI Asia-Pacific has shifted its priorities to rebuilding passenger confidence; advocating for relief for the airport sector; supporting our members with guidance for the recovery; and showing the public that airports are responsibly adapting to the new travel norms.

During the Assembly, members unanimously elected new Board members and officers. We are particularly grateful to Seow Hiang Lee, CEO of Changi Airport Group, for taking on another two-year term as president of ACI Asia-Pacific.

Top twenty

ACI recently published its always eagerly anticipated annual listing for the top twenty busiest airports in the world. Not surprisingly, the 2019 list for passenger traffic and cargo volumes included many of our region’s member airports.

In fact, ten members made it into the top 20 of total passenger traffic and 11 into the top 20 for cargo volumes. Well done to all! While these kind of lists are a great moment to celebrate, it reinforces the importance of our region’s airports on the global movement of people and freight.

Environmental activities

Over the last quarter, our environmental team has been busy analysing the results of the third biennial environmental survey. We thank you for participating in this survey, which is used to build a database of ongoing environmental activities and policies in the region.

The survey showed that energy, waste, and water management continue to be the top three environmental management priorities of airports.

Also noteworthy is the fact that respondents identified emerging issues such as adapting to climate change and tackling single-use plastic as rising priorities.

Documenting environmental best practices is the aim of the annual Green Airports Recognition programme. It is customary to honour the top entries at our annual Assembly, but due to its cancellation, we asked the recognised airports to submit photos showcasing the people behind the achievements.

You can see some of those images on the ACI news pages of this issue. You can also read about the innovations in water management in the Green Airports Recognition publication on our website.

A time of firsts

As you have already read, the pandemic is driving us to do things differently than before. The first virtual Assembly, a virtual introduction of our new ACI World director general and, in a first for Asia-Pacific Airports magazine, our first digital only issue.

In the continuous journey to reduce our impact on the environment, we will pursue paperless options for our publications. We hope you enjoy reading this edition on your device of choice and thank you for your trust in our association. Ciao!


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