By Joe Bates
Two days of lively debate and a snapshot of India’s colourful culture, courtesy of the local people, traditional music and dance and a visit to a Bollywood style theme park were just some of the highlights of ACI Asia-Pacific’s recent Regional Conference & Exhibition in Delhi.
Over 500 delegates from 42 countries were in Delhi for the event, which started with the tradition lighting the diya (lamp) and ended with a specially arranged flight to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal.
In between, airport and airline CEOs from across the Asia-Pacific region and ACI World Business Partners debated a host of hop topics such as ‘airport financing models and privatisation’, ‘investing in human capital’ and ‘security & facilitation: the balancing act’.
The theme of the conference was Aviation Business Strategies – Meeting of the Minds.
During his opening address, Airport Authority of India (AAI) chairman, VP Agrawal, told delegates that India had to face the challenges of “phenomenal” traffic growth head on, and build new airports and upgrade others to avoid a future shortfall in capacity.
Yearly double-digit traffic growth has seen throughput at Indian airports rise from 84 million passengers and 850,000 aircraft movements in 2005 to 124 million passengers and 1.3 million aircraft movements last year.
And with industry forecasts predicting that traffic numbers at Indian airports will reach 300 million and possibly up to 450 million passengers per annum by 2020 and 580mppa by 2027, the need for new capacity enhancing facilities cannot be understated.
“Just think about this. Indian aviation may have to handle an extra 300 to 320 million passengers per annum within the next 10 years,” said Yashwant Bhave, chairman of the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India.
Delegates learned that the growth will be driven by a rise in domestic traffic and that much of the $30 billion worth of new infrastructure likely to be required over the next 15 year would be funded by private investors, both from within India and overseas.
“Today, less than 2% of Indians fly domestically each year, and on only 0.5% internationally, so the growth potential is enormous,” added Bhave.`
GMR chairman, Kiran Kumar Grandhi, noted that 2011 was a milestone year for Indian aviation as it marked the 10th anniversary of the privatisation of Hyderabad Airport.
“It is a wonderful example of a PPP (public private partnership) project,” said Grandhi, who reflected on recent dramatic changes in the Indian aviation market.
“In 2000, we had no low-cost carriers, few bilateral airline agreements and no private investment in Indian airports. The landscape is very different today with five privatised airports and the LCCs accounting for around two-thirds of the market.”
While PS Nair, CEO corporate, GMR Airports, enthused: “Delhi’s new Terminal 3 showcases India’s ability to develop airports of truly international standards. It symbolises the resurgence of Indian aviation in the global scenario.”
Speaking about traffic growth in India and across the Asia-Pacific region in general, ACI Asia-Pacific president, Tan Sri Bashir Ahmad Abdul Majid, stated: “Now is our time for growth. The opportunity is there now and we have to make the most of it by continuing to invest in infrastructure and raising service levels.
“The aviation business is constantly growing and changing. You only have to look and see how much the airlines and their business models have changed over the last 10 years to realise what can happen.
“Who can say what will happen over the next 10 years? That is a challenge for airports.”