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In her final article for Asia-Pacific Airports (APA) magazine, outgoing regional director, Patti Chau, reflects on her legacy at ACI and reports on the organisation’s ongoing regional and global advocacy efforts.

By now, most of you will be aware that I am stepping down as regional director of ACI Asia-Pacific in December after eight years in the role. So, in my last message to you, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome my successor, reflect on my time with ACI, and deliver my final report about the advocacy efforts of the Regional Office.

All change in 2020
Having undertaken a global talent search over the summer, I am pleased to announce that the Regional Board recently confirmed the appointment of Stefano Baronci as my successor. 

Stefano has been the director of economics at ACI World since 2016 where he led a strong focus on strategy and advocacy campaigns for airport economics and related issues, among other endeavours.

I am sure Stefano will share his vision for the future of ACI Asia-Pacific in upcoming communications, so stay tuned!

Good times
Going down memory lane, I’m not sure how many of you are aware that the ACI Pacific Regional Office relocated from Vancouver to Hong Kong back in 2004, which then merged with ACI Asia to form ACI Asia-Pacific in 2006.

I still remember the early days when we only had three staff. Now we have grown to 16 strong, serving and advocating on issues pertinent to the diverse membership of our region.

I’ve personally been with ACI Asia-Pacific and lived in Hong Kong for the last 15 years. While I am excited to return to my hometown to reunite with family, my departure will be bitter-sweet as my experience at ACI has been both fruitful and rewarding, especially with the lasting friendships forged along the way.

It is truly an honour to have served ACI and I hope my peers will concur that Stefano will inherit a Regional Office with strong foundations to go from strength to strength to best serve our members.

ACI World Governing Board (WGB)
This year’s second WGB Meeting was held on October 20 in Bogotá, Colombia, preceding the ACI Latin America and Caribbean’s Annual Assembly, Conference and Exhibition. 

Given that the meeting was held towards the end of the year, it was fitting for each ACI region to deliver an early re-cap of the myriad of activities, events, and advocacy work that transpired this year. 

From my perspective, what stands out in our region is the rapid growth of air traffic, which continues to add pressure on airport infrastructure. Many airports are operating at near, or beyond their design capacities. 

To support the vibrant growth trajectory and fulfil anticipated demands in the long run, both Asia-Pacific and the Middle East are continuing to actively invest in airport infrastructure.

Other macro issues tabled at the WGB meeting included our region’s engagement with governments and regulators on economic matters, particularly on the issues of taxation, airport charges, and slot allocation.

At the Conference of Directors General of Civil Aviation of Asia and Pacific (DGCA56) meeting in Kathmandu, Nepal, in August, ACI submitted a number of papers that included a joint paper with IATA drawing attention to the proliferation of various taxes and duties as a growing concern. The paper urged the industry to engage with policymakers to identify ways to establish appropriate analyses on the cost and benefits of taxation to ensure that states maximise the economic benefits of aviation.

Regional Executive Committee and Board Meetings
A week after Bogotá, I flew to Muscat, Oman, for the ACI Asia-Pacific Regional Board meeting on October 29, where topping the agenda was, of course, Stefano’s formal appointment as the new director general.

In other business, given the recent storm of activities in connection with the climate crisis that made headline news worldwide, one key piece of advocacy work we continue to focus on is the engagement of regulators and industry players to promote airport environmental sustainability. 

I am proud to report that as of October, 55 Asia-Pacific and Middle East airports are accredited under the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme, including six airports at Level 3+, Neutrality.

Our job, however, is never done, and we must also bear in mind the importance of water management. A few months ago, the World Resources Institute warned in an alarming report that almost a quarter of the world’s population, many living in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, would be facing serious shortages in the supply of fresh water. 

As a result, the 2020 focus of our ACI Asia-Pacific Green Airports Recognition programme is water management, and we have subsequently issued a call for papers to member airports to share best practices in water management and the prevention of water pollution.   

Past and future events
After Muscat, I travelled to Doha to attend The Trinity Forum, which brought together the crucial triumvirate of airports, concessionaires and brands. Event hosts, Hamad International Airport, Qatar Duty Free and Qatar Airways are, of course, stalwart innovators in the industry, and we had a great conference deliberating on a variety of topics, including finding a physical solution to the digital challenge.

Next up in 2019 is Airport Exchange in Abu Dhabi on November 25-27. Jointly organised by ACI Europe and ACI Asia-Pacific, the event will be hosted by Abu Dhabi Airports and is one of ACI’s biggest annual trade shows, drawing hundreds of top executives, delegates, exhibitors, and expert airport speakers from all over the world.

Looking towards 2020, two more important events are on the horizon in the first part of the year – the 12th ACI Annual Airport Economics & Finance Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 25-26 and the 15th ACI Asia-Pacific Regional Assembly, Conference & Exhibition in Nara, Japan, on April 21-23. More information on these events will be furnished in due course.

Before I sign off for the last time, I wish to once again thank the Board for their guidance and unfailing support throughout the years. And, lastly, I must also convey my heartfelt thanks to all our team at ACI Asia-Pacific for their hard work and professional execution of their duties.

The growth and development of ACI

Since moving the World office from Geneva to Montréal in 2010, ACI has built a reputation as a trusted partner amongst ICAO and national regulators. We are a sought-after organisation on policy setting discussions and speaking roles on pressing aviation topics. 

I am very proud that ACI set the global standard for carbon management in the airport industry with its Airport Carbon Accreditation programme. Its aim is to encourage and enable airports to implement best practices in carbon management, with the ultimate objective of becoming carbon neutral.

ACI has also matured in terms of providing training to members. We are now one of the world’s leading providers of airport management and operations education and have been recognised by ICAO for having the most students trained with a training partner. Our Developing Nations Airports (DNA) Assistance Programme has also helped deliver meaningful, sustainable results for ACI member airports in developing countries.

ACI has become the place to go to measure the annual financial and economic performance of the world’s airports based on an annual survey. We also offer a wealth of policy briefs, guidance materials, and handbooks in various languages.


Key challenges facing Asia-Pacific’s airports

The environmental issue is probably the biggest challenge the industry is facing today. Airports recognise our role in this debate and have been active in reducing their carbon footprint very early on. We were one of the first regions to adopt ACA back in November 2011. To date, we have over 55 airports certified in the programme, with six of them achieving level 3+, Neutrality.    

With the diversity of the region, come challenges. Typical issues for airports in the region range from aerodrome certification, safety management systems, and risk assessment. Working with ICAO, ACI continues to enhance the capabilities of airports from Pacific Island States and developing states, in particular in operational safety and the oversight of international airport infrastructure and operations. Indeed, many of our members are hosting Airport Excellence (APEX) reviews to maximise operational efficiency and safety and/or security standards at their airports.

As one of the fasting growing regions, keeping pace with demand can be a challenge to many governments. In our region, many governments are considering private participation as a way to fund and operate new airport infrastructure. Japan and India continue to be at the forefront of this trend with a number of privatisation transactions in the pipeline.

The region doesn’t have and isn’t likely to get a regional security agency in the foreseeable future. This is why ACI is pushing for One-Stop-Security for the region. The result is that many major international air hubs in the region are being burdened with duplicated security screening.

Finally, as an industry, we need to ensure that our airports are not short of people or leaders in the years to come. ACI continues to work diligently with our members through the Global Training Hub to help airports attract, train and retain staff.


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