Asia tourist boom sparks $124bil airport building binge

Asia tourist boom sparks $124bil airport building binge
The arrival hall of Changi Airport Terminal 1.

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.

"In the next 10 years, we will see more than 350 new airports in the Asia-Pacific and the investment cost will be well over US$100 billion(S$124 billion)," said Chris De Lavigne, global vice president at business consultancy Frost & 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 US$25 billion, he told Agence France-Presse (AFP) by telephone from his office in Jakarta.

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.

There are plans for a full replacement of Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport, one of Asia's most notorious airports for overcrowding and backward facilities.

Its Terminal 1, which is undergoing a major makeover, was built in 1981 to handle six million passengers a year.

Together with two extension terminals, the airport handled around 30 million passengers in 2013.

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