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Asia tourism spreads wings, fuels airport boom

07/31/2014| 11:16:09 AM|

Asian nations are rushing to build hundreds of new airports to cope with surging demand for air travel in the region.

SINGAPORE Faced with snaking queues at immigration, overflowing baggage carousels and expensive flight delays, Asian nations are rushing to build hundreds of new airports to cope with surging demand for air travel in the region. 

From China and India to the Philippines and Indonesia, the fast-growing middle classes are looking to spend their cash by spreading their wings, leading to a boom in the Asia-Pacific region’s tourism sector. 

Airlines have responded by setting up several new budget carriers and flying new routes -- but many airports are unable to cope, forcing governments to either expand or simply build new airports. 

“Through the next 10 years, we see more than 350 new airports in the Asia-Pacific and the investment cost will be well over $100 billion,” said Chris De Lavigne, a global vice president at business consultancy Frost and Sullivan Asia Pacific. 

“China is building over 100 airports, India is building over 60 airports and Indonesia will also have to follow suit with investments in its infrastructure,” said De Lavigne, who closely tracks Asia’s aviation industry. 

Upgrades of existing airports could cost an additional $25 billion, he said. 

International tourist arrivals in Asia-Pacific grew an annual 6 per cent to 248 million last year, the strongest of any region worldwide, according to the UN World Tourism Organisation. To cope with this, construction is being ramped up. 

The Canada-based Airports Council International (ACI) said in a report that Indonesia plans to build 62 new airports in the next five years, in addition to its existing 237.

Soekarno-Hatta in Jakarta is improving capacity after handling 60 million passengers last year, nearly three times what it was designed for, ACI said. 

And Kuala Lumpur aims to double capacity to 100 million a year by 2020, while Hong Kong wants to handle 97 million annually by 2030, up from 60 million in 2013. 

In Beijing -- which already has a hub servicing 80 million people -- a second, $11 billion airport is being built to open in 2018 and handle 40 million passengers, Sydney-based consultancy Centre for Aviation said.

There are also plans for a full replacement of Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport. 

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