As the Airport Cities World Conference and Exhibition (ACE) draws to a close for another year, we take a look at some of the highlights from last week (April 24-26) in South Africa.
This was the first time that ACE had taken place on African soil in its 12-year history, and the City of Ekurhuleni, located near Johannesburg proved to be an exceptional host.
Home to OR Tambo International Airport – the busiest gateway in Africa – the City of Ekurhuleni already has a strategic road map in place to become ‘Africa’s first Aerotropolis’ and had much to talk about and show off during the conference last week.
With more than 700 delegates from 45 countries and representing well over 100 airports or airport authorities, ACE saw updates and progress reports from some of the most significant airport city projects across the globe.
However, it was not just a compelling conference programme that the delegates had to look forward to, but Ekurhuleni also put on a superb programme of hospitality events for attendees to really experience the country and make the most of the “cradle of human kind”.
Before the event officially opened, delegates were treated to a Full Day Heritage Tour of Soweto (South Western Township), including a trip to the Apartheid Museum, Nelson Mandela’s family home, Desmond Tutu’s home, and the Oliver Reginald Tambo cultural precinct.
The following day delegates were taken on an Airport City Tour showing the full scale of opportunities at OR Tambo International Airport, followed by an in-depth Masterclass run by event chairman and industry thought leader Professor John Kasarda.
The day was capped off with a Welcome Reception in the evening that saw a ribbon-cutting ceremony mark the official beginning of the conference and exhibition.
Held at the Emperors Palace resort, the two-day conference started with a bang the next morning with speeches from the Deputy Minister of Transport for South Africa, the Premier of the Gauteng Province, and the Executive Mayor of the City of Ekurhuleni.
During this first day, delegates heard about updates on various airport city projects including Denver, Kuala Lumpur, Cairo, and Hyderabad.
The Mayor of Denver, Michael Hancock, explained the city’s progress as an airport city, saying: “Denver is on the brink of a tremendous opportunity to become a city of national and international importance”.
“It is built to serve 100 million people. It has six runways and we could build six more and still have 9,000 acres free for new development. That is a good starting place for one of the best airport cities in the world.”
Meanwhile the Deputy Minister of Transport for South Africa, Sindisiwe Chikunga, said that developing airports remained a priority for the South African government, adding: “We must deliver airport infrastructure to deliver economic growth.”
In her welcome speech she also praised the City of Ekurhuleni for its vision in developing the Ekurhuleni Aerotropolis.
She said: “The Department of Transport embraces the concept of the Airport City and Aerotropolis to meet the social and economic goals of this country.”
Egypt's Minister of Aviation, Wael El-Maadawy, also attended the event to explain the new Cairo Airport City to the audience calling it an “enormous economic and logistical opportunity” for the country.
The first day of the conference culminated in the Gala Evening at the nearby Germiston Lake.
Here delegates were treated to cheese and wine tasting, followed by fireworks over the lake and then a sit-down networking dinner.
While they ate, the attendees were entertained by a local comedian, singers, and traditional dancers, before taking to the dance floor themselves.
Friday April 26 was the second and final day of the conference and exhibition.
During day two, delegates learnt about a wide range of topics and subjects including governance and strategic roadmaps, investment and infrastructure management, commercial development and real estate, airport design and non-aeronautical revenue development.
Speakers for these sessions included Luiz Antonio Athayde, Secretary of Economic Development for the State of Minas Gerais in Brazil, Karen Campbell and John Atkins from Manchester Airport City, Kristina Alvendal from Airport City Stockholm, John Terrell from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, and Sanjay Khanna of GVK Mumbai, among many others.
ACE was then brought to an official close with the Farewell Reception held by Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB), the host for ACE 2014 in Kuala Lumpur.
Delegates were given a taste of true Malaysian hospitality in preparation for next year’s event, which included performances from traditional Malaysian dancers, Malaysian cuisine and speeches from the organisers.
The farewell event also saw the unveiling of the new ‘Airport Cities Excellence Awards’, which will take place for the first time next year in Kuala Lumpur. These awards aim to recognise the industry’s leaders and acknowledge those successful airport cities that have changed the face of aviation across the globe.
Summing up the successful ACE 2013 in South Africa, Alex Kirby, executive vice president of Airport Cities, said: “Staging Airport Cities in Africa for the very first time represents an important step in the development of this unique global event.
“The rapid economic development of this vast continent requires a modern, efficient and sustainable transportation system to support it. The Airport City and Aerotropolis business models are recognised as key to facilitating and stimulating this economic growth and wealth creation.
“Furthermore, the delegate attendance levels shown in South Africa demonstrate the importance of this global forum. African nations are now stepping forward to play an every more important role in the global economy.
“The number of new Airport City and Aerotropolis projects presented last week is testimony to the strength of this movement and its pivotal role as a key driver of the 21st Century economic development.”