Asia Pacific ‘could lose top air transport market status’, warns airport operators

By Luke Barras-hill |

Although ACI Asia-Pacific forecasts growth of +22% for the region in 2022 year-on-year, the share of passenger traffic is likely to drop to second globally.

Passenger traffic in Asia Pacific is forecast to recover around 55% of pre-pandemic (2019) levels in 2022 that risks its spot at the summit of civil aviation markets, indicates ACI Asia-Pacific.

While the dominant region in the years prior to the Covid-19 crisis is tipped to grow 22% in 2022 year-on-year to 1.84 billion passengers, it is likely to finish second behind Europe – at a comparable level with North America – due to factors such as China’s strict border measures and Japan’s cautious approach to relaxing inbound travel restrictions.

The voice of airport operators in Asia Pacific has penned a letter co-signed by ACI World and the World Travel & Tourism Council urging Japan’s Prime Minister to remove all restrictions and restore its travel privileges to smooth the region’s recovery.

All three organisations have urged Japan to implement necessary measures such as resuming visa exemptions to countries that had such an agreement in place with Japan.

They deem this particularly important in light of the strong headwinds being experienced across global economies, accelerated by geopolitical instability in eastern Europe and the domino effect on inflation, rising energy prices and supply chain disruptions.

Adopt a ‘measured approach’, states urged

Stefano Baronci, Director General at ACI AsiaPacific, said: “The traffic in the region will not be able to fully recover to 2019 levels unless all countries keep their borders open to facilitate freedom of movement.

“China and Japan – one of the largest contributors to the region’s overall traffic – have been slow in lifting travel and Covid restrictions. We are urging states to take a measured approach to facilitate the recovery in a more sustainable manner and without causing significant impact on their healthcare system. Accelerating the recovery will need industry and government support, especially in view of an increasingly challenging macroeconomic scenario.”

Source: ACI Asia-Pacific. The latest ACI Asia-Pacific forecast does not include Middle East.

In 2021, 1.5 billion people travelled by air in Asia Pacific – decline of -4% versus 2020.

Notwithstanding this, it was still the leading region accounting for 33% of 4.6 billion global passengers.

In 2020, Asia Pacific handled 1.57 billion passengers – a 53% crash in traffic owing to pandemic-induced restrictions across the globe.

“There are positive signs emerging from Japan where the government is considering on lifting of daily arrival caps to spur tourism to revive their economy, and it will benefit the industry to a greater extent,” added Baronci. “We hope to see positive outcome in the very near future.”

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