View from the top
ACI Asia-Pacific & Middle East director general, Stefano Baronci, reflects on a successful year and looks forward to an even better 2024.
As we pull the curtains on 2023, it’s a moment of excitement to reflect on our remarkable achievements and reinforced connections with members across our region. We navigated the year with great optimism, setting the stage for a promising future with a new vision and strategic roadmap.
Among the significant milestones was the rebranding of our association to ACI Asia-Pacific & Middle East, coupled with the successful inauguration of our Middle East office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. These moves underscore our dedication to broadening our outreach and engaging with airports in these regions, providing them access to industry insights and resources to enhance their competitiveness. Additionally, this new name will help create a stronger and more unified identity for our Association.
Our new identity is guided by a vision, ‘Putting Asia-Pacific and Middle East Airports at the forefront of global aviation’. This vision is complemented by our new value proposition, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with thousands of airport smiles.” This reaffirms our position that everything we do and every decision we make boils down to one fundamental goal: ensuring a happy passenger experience at airports.
The addition of resources, supported by Riyadh Airports Company, has reinforced our strategic connections within the local community, especially in the Middle East. The Middle East office will work closely with our headquarters in Hong Kong. This way, we will enhance our service through a balancing act between leveraging the value of an international network and tailoring our services to the local needs.
I am also proud to note that our Board now includes three remarkable women who bring a diverse range of skills and expertise to the table. They are Lorie Argus (CEO, Australia Pacific Airports), Carrie Hurihanganui (CEO, Auckland Airport) and Sarah Samuels (vice president, airline and airports, ICM Airport Technics), a subsidiary of Amadeus.
ADVOCACY AND ENGAGEMENT
On the advocacy front, we are glad to state that our recommendations at the 58th Conference of Director Generals of Civil Aviation, Asia and Pacific Regions, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, have been acknowledged by the conference. We seized the opportunity to champion sustainable airport infrastructure, air connectivity, advanced air mobility, promotion of diversity, equity & inclusion, and the adoption of innovation in airport security. Achieving these goals will make our industry more efficient and sustainable. Engagements like the Airport Day in the Pacific and dialogue in Australia with regulators and government officials showcase our commitment to serving members.
The Airport Day for Pacific Island airports was a great success, with members from nine countries taking advantage of the customised workshops on route development, security & facilitation and climate change. In Australia, we engaged in discussions with regulators and Members of Parliament, which included Catherine King, Minister of Infrastructure Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, and Marisa Purvis-Smith, Australia’s Deputy Secretary, Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts.
The engagement in Canberra provided us with the opportunity to discuss the Australian Government’s Aviation Green Paper and two specific topics – the decarbonisation of the country’s air transport sector and international connectivity.
With respect to the latter, liberalising the air transport sector in Australia holds tremendous potential to bring enormous benefits to the nation, enabling superior air connectivity, traffic growth, economic development, employment creation conducive to more affordable airfares. We hope to see a positive shift in the policy that will pave the way for a brighter future for the industry in Australia. Our first-ever Airports Innovate, an event centered around the theme of innovation, was a success. The event was a testament to the airports industry’s strong commitment to continuously innovate. The discussions, spanning over two days, underlined the fact that innovation is the key to progress, and to navigate the fast-changing landscape of our industry.
At the time of writing this article, ACI Asia-Pacific & MID, has 132 airports members, operating 623 airports across 47 countries/territories. Additionally, we have five affiliate airport members, nine associate members and 102 World Business Partners.
We expect 2024 to be a milestone year for global passenger traffic recovery which is likely to reach 9.4 billion passengers, surpassing pre-pandemic 2019, when the world’s airports welcomed 9.2 billion passengers.
Asia-Pacific is expected to reach approximately 3.4 billion passengers in 2024, or 99.5% of the 2019 level, while the Middle East region is projected to serve 429 million, or 105.4% of the 2019 level. This forecast may be impacted by the economic circumstances of neighbouring markets.
As we step into 2024, armed with a new strategic plan, our focus remains sharply focused on enhancing our services to members. Lastly, I would like to wish all our members a wonderful holiday season ahead.