VIEW FROM THE TOP
Director general, Stefano Baronci, reflects on the continued challenges of COVID-19 and ACI Asia-Pacific’s efforts to hasten the industry’s recovery and ensure its future sustainability.
The road to travel recovery is proving to be bumpy and winding in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, with uncertainties playing out on many levels and a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in many parts of Asia.
Asian countries are hesitant to relax travel restrictions for fully vaccinated passengers, not least because the vaccine roll-out in the large majority of the countries is proceeding at a slower pace than in other parts of the world.
The scenario in the Middle East is more positive with a higher vaccine uptake, especially in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar and Bahrain.
As we head towards the middle of the year, the majority of states, with some exceptions, are sticking to the status quo of travel restrictions and quarantine.
TRAVEL BUBBLES AND TRAFFIC
Travel bubbles potentially provide one solution to end today’s international travel restrictions, although as we have seen in recent months, making them happen and last the test of time is proving difficult due to the continued emergence of new COVID-19 variants.
Indeed, examples of the volatile nature of the pandemic have led to the temporary suspension of flights between Chinese Taipei and Palau and the ill-fated travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore.
On the plus side, the Trans-Tasman bubble between Australia and New-Zealand produced a very positive economic and social effect, and continuing the momentum, New Zealand established a corridor with the Cook Islands. However, the two state partners are already experiencing disruptions.
Travel corridors are also being established with other regions of the world. The United Arab Emirates in particular has made a series of bilateral travel corridor agreements with Bahrain, Italy, Greece, Serbia and the Seychelles. These agreements waive the quarantine requirement in favour of testing, as advocated by ACI Asia-Pacific.
While quarantine-free travel bubbles provide an opportunity to re-open borders in a measured way, it is not enough to recover lost traffic. Weekly trending of passenger volumes for both Asia-Pacific and the Middle East indicate that the overall recovery continues to be slow and sensitive to resurgence of COVID-19 cases. On aggregate, the year-on-year change in passenger volumes in May 2021 still stands at -76% compared to 2019 levels.
ASEAN AND G7 ADVOCACY
To deepen our engagement with states in the region, we approached the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, better known as ASEAN.
The ten member states are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. They gladly welcomed ACI Asia-Pacific into their Air Transport Working Group. This will allow us to consistently and strategically share our position with national air transport experts.
In advance of the G7 Summit in June, we partnered with ACI World to address a message to the G7 member state Japan and invited leaders of the G7, Australia, India and the Republic of South Korea. The message focused on the need for a global approach in relation to digital health passports to avoid undesirable queues and crowds at the airport.
It proposes that the G7 Summit explicitly recognises these concerns in its communique. In the same letter, we urged states to ensure that there is equity of access and treatment for those who do not hold a digital certificate.
LONG-TERM CARBON GOAL
In exciting news for our sector, ACI World has announced a major commitment towards combatting climate change. A comprehensive ACI World study, conducted by World Business Partners, Airbiz and ICF, concluded that it is feasible for the world’s airports to decarbonise and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
As a result, it has been announced that ACI member airports globally are committing to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. This is a major step on the part of airports who will have to partner with governments to provide the necessary support in this endeavour.
I am delighted to share that the entire ACI Asia-Pacific Regional Board is fully supportive of this goal. This support is a reflection of the great advances that have already been made in our region.
Close to 60 airports are participating in the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme, for example, several of which have already reached carbon neutrality. Recently, our member airports Hawke’s Bay, Kansai Airports, Narita Airport and Sydney Airport made similar announcements, with some even committing to net zero emissions by 2030.
New technologies – such as solar energy – are readily being explored and implemented in our solar-rich region. It’s important to realise that there will be challenges in achieving this ambitious goal and we have a long road ahead of us. For more information on the study or the goal, please do contact us.
The timing of the announcement is especially significant as the public’s confidence in air travel, and the willingness to fly again post-pandemic, will be heavily influenced by the sector’s willingness and actions to tackle climate change and transition to sustainable business models.
AWARDS AND ANNIVERSARIES
At ACI Asia-Pacific we always look forward to the second quarter of the year as it is the time we announce the winners of two award programmes.
Through our signature HR programme, the Young Executive Award, our association contributes to the continuous development of the people who will run the airports of the future. This year, the research competition addressed the ‘topic du jour’ of ‘Passenger Facilitation under Pandemic’.
You can read more about the winner and Honourable Mentions in our ACI Asia-Pacific regional update on page 13.
Our environmental flagship programme, the Green Airports Recognition, invited airports to submit their projects on improving local air quality. Interestingly, the variety of projects submitted showed the innovation and creativity of our members in addressing this important local environmental issue.
A full breakdown of the recognised airports is detailed in our round up of the latest news from across the ACI Asia-Pacific region on page 12 of this issue.
On the topic of anniversaries, I would like to offer my congratulations to Shanghai Airports, which celebrates its 100th birthday in June, thereby joining an elite club of airport centenarians! We wish them a prosperous and glorious future.
I hope that by now you’ve had a chance to view our webinar series @ACIAPAC Online. In the continuing absence of in-person events, this series was created to virtually bring our community together.
The series continues through to June 22. If you’re unable to log in live or missed any of our previous webinars, I am happy to say that all are now on our newly-launched YouTube channel and website.
We appreciate and greatly value the support and sponsorship of our World Business Partners and the participation of airport members and industry colleagues for making these events possible.
As we patiently wait for vaccination drives to ramp up, we wish you a good summer.