Asia Pacific to Invest $100 Billion for 350 Airports, Says Frost & Sullivan

The aviation industry in Asia Pacific (APAC) has enjoyed relatively consistent growth over the past decade. Even during the economic crisis, the industry in APAC performed better than its' western counterparts. Some of the sectors that sustain the industry in this region are from aircraft parts manufacturing; airlines; maintenance, repair and overhaul; as well as the airports industry. The growth in other segments within the aerospace industry has a corresponding effect that will eventually affect the development of airports in APAC.

According to Frost & Sullivan's Aerospace & Defense Practice APAC Consultant, Chern Wai Cheong, although many stakeholders in the industry had taken a strong beating during the financial turmoil over the past two years, the airport industry suffered less compared to other players. “Some airports have also done incredibly well despite declining passenger and cargo traffic,” he said. “Airport development has yet to dwindle, and from 2010 is expected to be on a full course ahead with expansion and many new developments.”

He continued, “The development and expansion of airports have been rampant across APAC countries, especially in China, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.” Frost & Sullivan expects that the airports industry will maintain its positive outlook, especially in China and India, which are the two primary nations that will continue to drive the industry forward. Over the next 10 years, Frost & Sullivan's research shows that more than 350 new airports will be developed in the APAC region to cater to the growing demands and convenience of air travel, both with business and leisure travelers.

Cheong said the APAC region has been undergoing a very positive increase in passenger and cargo traffic over the past few years, with the exception of 2009, which saw a dip due to the economic crisis. However, in general, the rising economic standard of countries in Asia Pacific has driven demand for air travel and logistics. This has resulted in airport congestion and the eventual upgrade requirement in order to accommodate larger numbers and sizes of aircraft.

“Airports such as Changi Airport and Malaysia's KLIA have engaged in numerous upgrade programs to support their future plan of accommodating a larger capacity in terms of both cargo and passengers,” Cheong said. Growth of passenger and cargo traffic has driven the airport industry with major aircraft manufacturers having identified point-to-point flying as one of the future trends in commercial flight, supporting the low-cost carrier (LCC) concept which favors point-to-point flights over hub-to-hub.

“Point-to-point commercial flights encourage the growth of even more airports, even in smaller cities, as flying between cities becomes more affordable for the masses, and is preferred over land transportation, even when that option exists,” Cheong said

Frost & Sullivan estimated the airport industry will exceed US$100 billion in investments across the region, with the majority of it in India and China. Greenfield airports will be one of the most lucrative areas of investment opportunities in this region. “To meet the future demands of increasing passenger traffic, airports across the region are upgrading and expanding their main airports in major cities, catering to both legacy and low-cost airlines,” Cheong said. “KLIA has developed a new low cost terminal, increasing its capacity to 30 million passengers annually, double the capacity of the previous LCC terminal that accommodated 15 million passengers. This clearly indicates the growth potential in passenger traffic and of the aviation industry, as the economy begins its path back to recovery.”

Airports have faced many challenges, but recent downturn challenges have proven to be one of the toughest with many of the other stakeholders being hard hit as well. The declining passenger and cargo traffic, fluctuating fuel prices, airlines cutting back costs, routes and reducing their flight frequencies have resulted in airports suffering a reduction in aeronautical revenues.

Airports have had to implement innovative business strategies by focusing on their landside business to generate revenue to cover the revenue decrease on the aeronautical side. The airport retail business has been successful for many airports, enabling airports to sustain their business during the recent economic unpredictability. Other alternatives include hotel, parking, real estate and even the development of airport cities that will recreate and re-innovate the airport industry from being merely a transportation hub to a full fledged airport city.

Airport investment companies are increasing their investments both domestically and internationally, as most realize the potential that the industry holds in the coming years. Airport security is equally important in ensuring that passengers and visitors both feel safe whenever they travel. “The advancement of technology over the years has been driven by the increasing need for better security to prevent unwanted terrorist threats from happening,” Cheong said. “Since Sept. 11, airport security has been given a significant boost to regain confidence amongst the masses on the safety of air travel.”

Through to the year 2020, Frost & Sullivan's research shows that new technologies will be implemented to increase security capabilities in airports. These include nanotechnologies, advanced X-ray systems, biometrics such as face scanning/detection, electronic passports and many more. The road map is a clear indication of the direction that security is a vital component of the airport industry.

Some airports in APAC have benefited from having foreign partners invest in their development and expansion activities. “This form of partnership brings in external expertise in terms of consultancy and also financial injection,” Cheong said. “In terms of domestic partnerships, airports can leverage on this to create an understanding between airports in terms of capacity sharing, to ensure each partner grows at equally healthy rates. Apart from this, they can also leverage such partnerships to make bulk orders for supplies and equipment, where commonality would be a positive point in view of the future needs for maintenance and servicing.”
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