ASEAN air­port up­grades tak­ing off

China Daily (USA) - - IN DEPTH - By KARL WIL­SON in Syd­ney

Mem­ber coun­tries of the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions are spend­ing bil­lions of dol­lars up­grad­ing air­ports or build­ing new ones to ac­com­mo­date a surge in tourist num­bers.

And China ac­counts for the bulk of visi­tors to the 10-na­tion bloc.

Through­out South­east Asia, the race is on to build big­ger and bet­ter air­ports to cater to soar­ing tourist fig­ures, fu­eled by the grow­ing num­ber of Chi­nese trav­el­ers.

Over the past decade, ASEAN, which com­prises In­done­sia, Thai­land, Viet­nam, Sin­ga­pore, Malaysia, the Philip­pines, Myan­mar, Cam­bo­dia, Laos and Brunei — has seen a dra­matic in­crease in Chi­nese tourism, test­ing out­dated in­fra­struc­ture.

Even Sin­ga­pore’s Changi Air­port, voted the World’s Best Air­port for the sixth con­sec­u­tive year by con­sul­tancy Sky­trax in its 2018 World Air­port Awards, is un­der­tak­ing a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar ex­pan­sion.

Span­ning 1,080 hectares (equiv­a­lent to more than 660 soc­cer fields), the Changi East project is the largest de­vel­op­ment in the air­port’s his­tory, ac­cord­ing to the Changi Air­port Group, which man­ages the South­east Asian hub.

The de­vel­op­ment in­cludes a new ter­mi­nal (T5) and run­way, which will see the num­ber of run­ways rise from two to three.

Due to open in 2030, T5 will be big­ger than Ter­mi­nals 1, 2, 3 and 4 com­bined, which cater for 82 mil­lion pas­sen­gers a year. An up­grade of T1, due for com­ple­tion next year, will push ca­pac­ity to 85 mil­lion an­nu­ally. But T5 will add ca­pac­ity for an ex­tra 50 mil­lion pas­sen­gers a year, the group said.

Cas­par Baum, a re­gional ex­pert on air­port in­fra­struc­ture who sits on the board of gov­er­nors of the Asian Busi­ness Avi­a­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, said global avi­a­tion vol­ume is ex­pected to tre­ble over the next 15 years.

Much of this will be driven by traf­fic growth through Asia-Pa­cific, he said.

Baum said the key des­ti­na­tions and air­ports to be de­vel­oped in South­east Asia are in Viet­nam, Cam­bo­dia, Thai­land, the Philip­pines, Malaysia and In­done­sia. Other ar­eas (ex­clud­ing China) are In­dia, Nepal, Ja­pan, Mal­dives, Aus­tralia, the South Pa­cific and New Zealand.

Ac­cord­ing to avi­a­tion con­sul­tancy CAPA, Asia ac­counts for nine of the 20 air­ports glob­ally that han­dle at least 60 mil­lion pas­sen­gers an­nu­ally.

Five Asian air­ports reached 60 mil­lion pas­sen­gers an­nu­ally for the first time last year — Su­varn­ab­humi in Bangkok, Indira Gandhi in New Delhi, Baiyun in Guangzhou, In­cheon in Seoul and Changi in Sin­ga­pore.

In 2016, Asia only ac­counted for four, or 29 per­cent, of the 14 air­ports glob­ally han­dling at least 60 mil­lion pas­sen­gers a year. Asia will likely ac­count for 50 per­cent of the air­ports han­dling 60 mil­lion-plus pas­sen­gers this year, and more than 60 per­cent in 2020.

“Asia’s fast-grow­ing share is an in­di­ca­tion of its in­creased role in global traf­fic,” CAPA said.

“Large Asian air­ports (han­dling more than 30 mil­lion pas­sen­gers an­nu­ally) with­out in­fra­struc­ture con­straints are par­tic­u­larly well placed for growth, lead­ing to a steady stream of air­ports reach­ing the 50 mil­lion and 60 mil­lion an­nual pas­sen­ger mile­stones,” CAPA said in a re­port ear­lier this year.

Re­cently, the board of Air­ports of Thai­land ap­proved ma­jor ex­pan­sions at Su­varn­ab­humi, the coun­try’s main in­ter­na­tional air­port in Bangkok, and also at the city’s sec­ond in­ter­na­tional air­port, Don Mueang.

AOT ex­pects Su­varn­ab­humi, al­ready stretched to ca­pac­ity due to the coun­try’s tourism boom, to re­ceive 65 mil­lion pas­sen­gers this year and 68 mil­lion next year.

In June, Niti­nai Siris­matthakarn, pres­i­dent of AOT, said the ex­pan­sion plan will pro­ceed un­til 2022 to in­crease ca­pac­ity from 75 mil­lion to 90 mil­lion visi­tors an­nu­ally at Su­varn­ab­humi and to 40 mil­lion at Don Mueang.

AOT runs sev­eral other air­ports in Thai­land, in­clud­ing those at Phuket Chi­ang Rai and Chi­ang Mai, all of which are un­der­go­ing ex­pan­sion and ren­o­va­tion.

Tourism is a ma­jor pil­lar and pow­er­house for the Thai econ­omy, and is one of the main rea­sons for the ex­pan­sions and up­grades.

The Thai gov­ern­ment has been fu­el­ing in­fra­struc­ture projects de­signed to help the coun­try to be­come the sec­ond­largest econ­omy in South­east Asia. Tourism ac­counts for 18 per­cent of Thai­land’s GDP and re­mains crit­i­cal for the econ­omy to ex­pand, start­ing with its air­port ini­tia­tives, ac­cord­ing to an­a­lysts.

In Laos, the area oc­cu­pied by the in­ter­na­tional ter­mi­nal at Wat­tay In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Vi­en­tiane, the cap­i­tal, has been dou­bled to 25,000 square me­ters to sup­port an ini­tia­tive to boost tourism.

The air­port opened the ex­panded ter­mi­nal in Au­gust, boost­ing ca­pac­ity to 2.3 mil­lion pas­sen­gers a year. The ter­mi­nal han­dles about 150 de­par­tures a week.

The ex­pan­sion project cost nearly $90 mil­lion and was funded pri­mar­ily by a loan pro­vided by the Ja­pan In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Agency.

Laos, one of Asia’s poor­est coun­tries, ex­pects Vi­en­tiane’s in­ter­na­tional pas­sen­ger traf­fic to dou­ble over the next five years, driven by a rapid rise in the num­ber of visi­tors, es­pe­cially Chi­nese.

Neil Bent­ley, vice-pres­i­dent of avi­a­tion in Asia-Pa­cific at multi­na­tional en­gi­neer­ing com­pany AE­COM, told a con­fer­ence re­cently that in­vest­ments in in­fra­struc­ture and hu­man cap­i­tal at air­ports are not keep­ing pace with growth in the avi­a­tion in­dus­try across ASEAN coun­tries “ex­cept in a few cases”.

“Many coun­tries have the nec­es­sary plans and pro­grams, but seem to be strug­gling with an ef­fec­tive and timely roll­out and im­ple­men­ta­tion of those plans,” Bent­ley said.

Ac­cord­ing to the Ox­ford Busi­ness Group, a global pub­lisher and con­sul­tancy, In­done­sia’s air­line mar­ket is among the fastest-grow­ing glob­ally and a lead­ing driver of trans­porta­tion in­dus­try ex­pan­sion.

Al­though this growth has cre­ated ca­pac­ity con­straints at the coun­try’s pri­mary air hub, Soekarno-Hatta In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Jakarta, the com­ple­tion of a third ter­mi­nal has sig­nif­i­cantly boosted ca­pac­ity, bet­ter en­abling the air­port to meet rapidly ris­ing de­mand.

The Re­port: In­done­sia 2018 by the Ox­ford Busi­ness Group said the gov­ern­ment is shift­ing its fo­cus to de­vel­op­ing and up­grad­ing air­ports out­side of Jakarta, with plans to build 15 new ones in com­ing years.

An up­grade of Bali’s I Gusti Ngu­rah Rai In­ter­na­tional Air­port is be­ing led by sta­te­owned air­port op­er­a­tor Angkasa Pura I.

FE­LINE LIM/ REUTERS

Con­struc­tion work pro­ceeds at Changi Air­port in Sin­ga­pore in April.

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