VIEW FROM THE TOP
Director general, Stefano Baronci, reflects on the work of ACI Asia-Pacific over the final quarter of 2021 and looks forward to next year.
While the summer months saw the progressive resumption of travel in many parts of the world, international travel, particularly in Asia, struggled with the resurgence of the delta variants of the coronavirus. And now the world is grappling with the Omicron variant.
These are undeniably tough times for our airports, especially the ones that are heavily dependent on or even owe their very existence to international traffic. We remain optimistic that better times await in 2022. In the meantime, I’d like to reassure members that, pandemic notwithstanding, the work of ACI Asia-Pacific does not stop.
In early November, I enjoyed a series of engagement meetings with several airports from the Middle East region. First stop was Bahrain, where I finally got to experience the new terminal building, which opened in early 2021. My visit was filled with meetings with top executives and subject matter experts from Bahrain Airport Corporation, government and global organisations.
I also had the privilege of meeting officials and ministers from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Bahrain’s Ministry of Health, Civil Aviation Affairs, and Ministry of Transportation & Telecommunications, to name just a few.
I am happy to report that fruitful deliberations took place on ways ACI Asia-Pacific can further advance the interests and operational excellence of the airport.
My second stop was in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where similar meetings were held with Abu Dhabi Airports Company, operator of Abu Dhabi International Airport, Al Ain International Airport and the smaller gateways of Al Bateen, Dalma and Sir Bani Yas.
The deliberations and exchanges certainly pave the way for further advancing the interests and operational excellence of all its airports.
My visit to the UAE also provided me with the opportunity to catch up with and have invaluable meetings with our members at Dubai Airports and Sharjah International Airport.
I would like to go on record in showing my appreciation at the exceptional hospitality I received from all our members throughout my visit. I firmly believe that the meetings affirmed the value of being able to discuss important issues in-person, instead of across the computer screen.
As this issue of the magazine goes to print, I will be in Saudi Arabia on the final leg of my tour where I will meet up with members and colleagues from the General Authority of Civil Aviation and Matarat Holding Company.
On the agenda are visits to Riyadh, Dammam, Al-’Ula, Jeddah and Abha airports. So, do stay tuned for updates in forthcoming communications.
ENGAGEMENT WITH ICAO AND PACIFIC ISLANDS
Earlier in November, we had the privilege of joining forces with ICAO Asia and Pacific to hold an information sharing session with the director generals, CEOs and respective civil aviation authorities of the Pacific Small Islands and Developing States (PSIDS).
These included the Cook Islands, the Federated State of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, many of which are already part of the ACI Asia-Pacific community.
It was a necessary conversation on how ICAO and ACI can support and assist PSIDS with the implementation of Council Aviation Recovery Taskforce (CART) Report recommendations and COVID-19 Response and Recovery Implementation Centre portal updates, and help them meet the Beijing Declaration Commitment on Certification of Aerodromes.
We also used the opportunity to share information about ACI’s Airport Health Accreditation (AHA) Programme.
REGIONAL BOARD MEETING
Speaking of ICAO, we look forward to welcoming ICAO Asia and Pacific’s regional director, Ma Tao, to our final Regional Board meeting of the year in early December.
Unfortunately, for the fourth time since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Regional Board will be a virtual event, but hopefully things will improve sufficiently over the coming months for us to meet in-person again next year.
Going forward, as more borders re-open and quarantine restrictions lessen, we invite members to share the experiences of their recovery efforts and new travel facilitation procedures with us, as this knowledge and information could be used to help other airports that are not as advanced in terms of their recovery processes.
We followed ACI World’s Advisory Bulletin in November forecasting sustained 2021 losses for the region’s airports by issuing a press statement urging more governments to re-open borders and relax quarantine requirements – especially in countries which have reached satisfactory vaccination rates – to prevent another dismal year for Asia-Pacific and Middle East airports in 2022.
Asia-Pacific, which has been badly impacted by lockdowns, travel restrictions and quarantine measures, is expected to close the year with passenger numbers down 56% on the pre-COVID forecast for 2021, despite the resumption of international travel in some markets.
And consistent with forecasts previously reported in 2020, the Middle East will be one of the hardest-hit regions globally with passenger losses of almost 70%.
Compared with ACI’s pre-pandemic projections for the same period, the two regions are forecasted to lose over 2.3 billion passengers by the end of 2021. Similarly, airport revenues, a direct reflection of passenger traffic, are forecasted to decline by approximately $34 billion in Asia-Pacific and $11 billion in the Middle East by the end of 2021.
However, a repeat of a dismal 2021 can be avoided in 2022 if more governments adopt the risk-based, pragmatic approaches recommended by ICAO and the WHO. With continued careful monitoring of public health situations through indicators such as hospitalisation and mortality rates, more governments are urged to expedite the calculated risk of relaxing quarantine policies, and follow the global trend of adopting digital health certificates with a view to supporting the resumption of international air travel.
GREEN AIRPORTS RECOGNITION
Now in its sixth year, Green Airport Recognition is one of ACI Asia-Pacific’s signature programmes and serves to highlight the very best environmental initiatives of the region’s airports.
In alignment with ACI’s long-term carbon goals and airport pledges to achieve Net-Zero carbon emissions by 2050, we have selected Carbon Management as the theme for 2022’s Green Airport Recognition programme. We hope that this will accentuate the importance of airports as the industry continues on its decarbonisation journey.
We look forward to receiving submissions from member airports that would like to showcase their innovative efforts, initiatives and projects on carbon management.
We are, of course, deeply appreciative of the continued support and commitment we receive from our members, most of whom remained actively engaged with us throughout what has been a difficult and challenging year.
In fact, we are particularly humbled that 10 airport operators, two associations and 14 new World Business Partners joined ACI Asia-Pacific during the year. We are grateful for the confidence and trust they have placed in our association.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all our airport members, World Business Partners and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season ahead. More importantly, stay healthy, and we certainly hope to see more of you, in-person, in 2022.