Last week, it was my absolute pleasure to attend the 13th Australasian Airports Real Estate and Planning Conference (AAREC). The two-day event, hosted this year by the Gold Coast Airport and sponsored by APP Projects, BECA, Norton Rose Fulbright and The Airport Group exceeded expectations. With a fantastic and highly knowledgeable array of speakers and panellists, there was a multitude of topics discussed that had me excited about the challenges and opportunities for future airport planning and development. Now, a few days after the hype has died down, I jotted down a couple of my key takeaways from the event. Here’s what I have to share.
1. Procurement panel
Our Procurement Panel, consisting of Rob Jackson (APP), John Fraser (Jandakot Airport Holdings) and Steve Grant (Brisbane Airport Corporation), shared several insightful learnings. Something that stood out for me from the discussion was the importance of the continuity of key people’s involvement in the project: project sponsor, project manager, construction manager and design manager. While it is true that the processes engaged with during airport planning and construction are important and carry significant implications for the projected outcomes, this is only half the story.
At the end of the day, it is equally, if not more important, to consider the people you work with – do you share the same vision, are individuals’ skill-sets complementary of each other, are leaders and managers empowering their team to reach their full potential? Performance is directly driven by employees and therefore, the need to place focus on people to ensure the best possible outcomes is essential.
2. Tourism: Does Australia have the aviation infrastructure to benefit from the forecasted tourism boom?
With incoming tourist numbers expected to continue to rise, the challenge is to ensure an efficient distribution of visitors throughout Australia, making sure economic benefits are shared as widely as possible and Australia’s well known and loved destinations do not suffer from “overtourtism”.
The question is: does Australia have the aviation infrastructure to benefit from the forecast tourism boom? Certainly, gateway airports are investing to accommodate the inbound growth, but once a visitor has arrived in Australia, there are several other implications to consider and question:
- Do we have enough airlines and aircrafts to provide efficient services?
- Are there enough pilots to fly the aircraft and aviation engineers to keep the aircraft in the air?
- Will the regional airports be ready to accept increased traffic and potentially larger aircrafts?
- Does the local council have appropriate airport protection, airspace and land use?
- Do the destinations have appropriate accommodation and attractions?
In order to successfully navigate the forecasted growth in tourism, this will involve well planned coordination between industry and government to link together all the pieces of the puzzle and provide strategic vision and leadership.
3. The pivot towards digital technology within the industry
The design and management of infrastructure is rapidly advancing with the rise of digital technology. Airport managers are finding such technologies (which are affordable and cost effective) are allowing for enhanced efficiencies and increased ease of information sharing, accessibility and distribution. Additionally, as technology continues to advance, more effective digital platforms are starting to emerge within the industry allowing for more efficient processes.
4. Airports are multi-activity centres
Airport development in Australia continues to reinforce the Airport’s dynamic regional development role and the range of opportunity continues to evolve. Shopping, cuisine and activity options are advancing and incorporating these elements into airport development planning is now more essential than ever before.These sites are also becoming a source for entertainment. The site tour of Gold Coast Airport and presentation on the Brisbane auto-mall were excellent examples that reinforced this concept.
5. Airspace – A multi-industry affair
As cities grow and continue to develop, flight paths and planning around airspace needs to continually adapt. Adhering to regulation isn’t just a compliance issue, it is a matter of safety and airport or developer alike need to ensure they are operating in line with stipulated regulations. Airspace planning can often pose a challenge for many parties, however with the right tools and planning consultation, the process can be managed well.
With several topics covered and some great points raised in relation to the advancement of Australian airports, I’ve walked away from yet another outstanding AAREC conference feeling a sense of motivation. As the industry keeps moving forward, it’s exciting to know there are so many growth opportunities and as Managing Director of The Airport Group, I’m looking forward to being part of it.