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Director general, Stefano Baronci, reflects on the latest traffic trends, the association’s ongoing advocacy efforts and looks forward to the upcoming ACI Asia-Pacific Regional Assembly, Conference and Exhibition in Kobe.
It might sound dramatic, but I strongly believe that this year heralds a new dawn for the aviation and tourism industry.
After having remained shut for nearly three years, China – the world’s biggest aviation market – has re-opened its borders to international travellers. This is a significant milestone for the aviation industry in the region as it looks to regain the dominant market position it enjoyed from 2012 up until the global pandemic. The prolonged closure of China’s borders and travel restrictions and limitations in Japan and Hong Kong certainly hindered Asia-Pacific’s traffic recovery in 2022, ACI’s soon to be released annual traffic figures likely to show that the region’s airports handled 1.7 billion passengers last year.
If confirmed, the total will mean that passenger numbers in the Asia-Pacific region reached 51.4% of 2019’s 3.4 billion passengers in 2022.
This would mean that the previously dominant Asia-Pacific region is likely to fall behind Europe and North America in terms of global market share as provisional figures indicate that they handled 1.9 billion and 1.8 billion passengers respectively in 2022. The last time Asia-Pacific recorded a similar level of traffic to 2022 was in 2011.
We remain confident that the current situation is just a temporary setback, however, as ACI’s long-term forecast indicates that passenger traffic in Asia-Pacific, along with the Middle East, is expected to grow faster than other regions until 2041.
Indeed, the projected annual growth rate of 4.5% and 4.7% for Asia-Pacific and the Middle East respectively compares favourably against the forecast compound annual growth rate of 2.6% in Europe and 2.2% in North America, against the baseline of 2019 traffic.
HUGE POTENTIAL OF ASIA-PACIFIC REGION
In the long-term, Asia-Pacific will account for four of the top five nations in the world in terms of civil aviation markets, with China leading the way, followed by India, Indonesia, and Japan.
Among the fastest growing global markets, five are located in Asia (Indonesia, India, Vietnam, the Philippines and China). Perhaps the greatest example of the potential of Asia-Pacific is the fact that the region is predicted to host 45% of global traffic in 2041.
Coming back to today, we expect China’s re-opening to signify the beginning of a strong traffic recovery across the Asia-Pacific region as it accounts for almost one-quarter (23%) of all inbound travellers.
It’s also worth noting that Chinese travellers were the largest international spenders in 2019, accounting for $120 billion of the global international spending of $500 billion.
These facts show just how important China and Chinese passengers are to the recovery and future health and prosperity of airports across the Asia-Pacific region, especially those that are dependant on China for a significant portion of their inbound international travellers.
Going forward, tourism-reliant nations in Southeast Asia will likely be among the first to witness an upward movement in traffic, with developed economies also benefitting from the return of Chinese visitors.
As a result, Asia-Pacific is expected to return to 2019 traffic levels by 2024 and the Middle East by end of 2023.
Another encouraging indicator for the region is that over a dozen countries that imposed travel restrictions following China’s re-opening have gradually lifted the restrictions, allowing total freedom of travel.
Our advocacy remains strong as our policy teams continue to work more closely with stakeholders and the aviation community in the journey towards recovery and rebuilding.
In various ICAO meetings, for example, we reaffirmed our call for One-Stop Security and promoted APEX in Security. We also presented a number of proposals that might assist airports in improving their readiness for future health emergencies, such as the implementation of globally acknowledged digital health credentials and the use of a balanced approach when adding extra health precautions at airports.
In addition, we also launched two new safety guideline handbooks. The Guidelines on Operations Under Lightning is designed to help members establish protocols to determine when to scale down or suspend aerodrome operations during a thunderstorm and safely resume operations afterwards.
While the Guidelines on Manning Requirements for Aerodrome Operations provides a framework to estimate manning requirements for aerodrome operations.
Our members’ enthusiasm for ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) programme has been amazing. According to the latest ACA Annual Report May 2021 to May 2022, a total of 64 airports in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East have contributed to the reduction of 162,623 tonnes of carbon reduction (Scope 1 & 2) across their facilities in the year ending May 2022. As on date, we have 66 airports from the region accredited under ACA programme.
ACI Asia-Pacific is working with governments and national authorities to encourage airports to pursue decarbonisation. In fact, during our recent visit to India, we had a dialogue with Government of India to increase the participation of airports in the ACI ACA programme.
With the complete re-opening of international borders, business is now back to normal. Our engagements and advocacy will continue to increase, as will our events and services.
We are currently preparing for a series of events in 2023, beginning with our ACI Asia-Pacific Regional Assembly, Conference and Exhibition in Kobe, Japan (May, 16-18), followed by the launch of our sub-regional office for the Middle East in Riyadh, and Airports Innovate conference in Muscat towards the end of the year (November 21-22).
I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to attend the ACI Asia-Pacific Regional Assembly, Conference and Exhibition in Kobe. We’ve put together an exciting line-up of speakers, including industry pioneers with a lot of experience.
We look forward to meeting you in Kobe!