New report: The airport industry displays resilience amidst the turbulence

Having made it through COVID-19, the airport sector has been facing new challenges brought about by a turbulent economy, high costs of living in many regions around the world, and ongoing global conflicts and geopolitical disputes.

Yet despite these macroeconomic strains, airports have demonstrated remarkable resilience and adaptability. They are absorbing the lessons learned from these major disruptions to drive change and transform their businesses.

That is one of the conclusions of the third edition of BEUMER Group’s Airport Report, “Airports 2024 Outlook: Resilience & Adaptability”, which has just been released.

The airport industry right now

The report offers useful insights into the current state of the global airport industry and what we can expect looking ahead.

For example, we noticed that global passenger traffic experienced a significant rebound in 2022, with passenger volumes reaching 72 percent of 2019’s recorded levels.

An ACI World survey showed that 86 percent of respondents expressed an intention to travel by air in 2023, the highest travel intention score since the start of the pandemic.

A full recovery to the pre-pandemic figures of 2019 is expected to be achieved in 2024.

Source: ACI World

With the anticipated resurgence of corporate activities such as meetings, conferences and trade events, business travel is expected to rise.

Regional and market variations

However, there are some regional and market variations to be noted. The recovery of Latin American-Caribbean markets, for example, continued to be greater than the Asia-Pacific region. It remains to be seen if the recovery in Asia-Pacific will be furthered by the re-opening of China’s borders.

The bounceback also differed in market segments. International passenger numbers continued to lag behind domestic numbers in 2022. International travel reached 60 percent of 2019 levels, while domestic numbers were at 79 percent of their 2019 levels.

Source: ACI World

Ongoing obstacles: Volatile prices and supply chains

However, it won’t be all plain sailing for airports, even in the face of this positive travel recovery.

Continuing global economic volatility can impact consumer and business confidence, leading to a drop in travel demand. Moreover, inflation, increased interest rates and fluctuating energy costs can generate higher ticket prices, making travel more costly for passengers.

Economic uncertainty also impacts supply chains and there’s always potential for further disruptions in terms of the availability of essential resources, spare parts and maintenance services.

Furthermore, rising interest rates and stricter monetary policies impact the disposable income of passengers. When surging jet fuel prices and their impact on airfares are added to the mix, it could well be that air transport demand takes a hit.

Having said that, IATA contended that the strong thirst for leisure travel in the first half of 2023 paved the way for a healthy remainder of the year in many markets.

The future trajectory

There are some global trends in the aviation industry that are now in the spotlight that airports can benefit from. We discuss these more fully in the report, but in brief, these are:

  • Making the travel experience personal: Airports tailoring their services to cater to different passenger segments.
  • The mounting digital transformation: The use of AI and smart algorithms to personalise the passenger journey, drive operational efficiency and generate ancillary revenue.
  • Baggage tracking: The use of advanced tracking technologies to improve baggage tracking.
  • Digital identities: Meeting the demand of younger passengers for digital identities to enhance their travel journeys.
  • Cyber security: The growing need to enhance airport cyber protection measures and to meet regulatory frameworks around the world.
  • Implanting sustainability into the airport ecosystem: By building climate-positive cultures and educating employees about the importance of sustainability.

The world remains vulnerable to global instability occasioned by ongoing global conflicts and macroeconomic stresses. But airports are showing their resilience and adaptability by reevaluating their entire operations and systems in light of insights they have gained from previous disruptions.

To find out more about the state of airports now and in the near future, read our full report.

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