The Airport Cities World Conference and Exhibition (ACE) would make its debut on African soil this year when it is held at the Emperors Palace Hotel, in Ekurhuleni, from April 24 to 26, London-based event organisers UBM Live announced.
The yearly ACE has been hosted around the world for the past 11 years and champions the concept that airports are more than gateways for the transportation of goods and passengers, a perception that has given way to a much broader concept of airports as business destinations and economic engines for regions and local communities.
ACE executive VP Alex Kirby said a new strategic approach to airport planning and associated commercial development, known as the Aerotropolis model, was gaining momentum around the world.
“It comprises an airport-centred commercial core, called the airport city, and outlying corridors and clusters of aviation-linked businesses. Airports today are multimodal, multifunctional enterprises, generating commercial development both within and beyond its boundaries,” he explained.
Kirby said the development of airport cities was entering a new phase marked by a different level of political involvement.
"The development of airport cities and aerotropoli had evolved from the airport through the city, to regional or state governments and will soon rest with national governments. A few years ago we dealt exclusively with airports as our hosts, but this has changed with cities and regions taking ownership of the event [the conference].”
He further noted that it was fitting for the City of Ekurhuleni, and particularly South Africa, to host the world conference this year, as it was the most developed country in Africa and offered the infrastructure and services that could unlock the region’s frontiers.
The conference was expected to attract at least 800 delegates, including 110 airport operators representing 45 nations, and more than 60 airport CEOs or executive directors.
The event would also be aimed at attracting investment to the City of Ekurhuleni and to broaden economic relationships between the city and international businesses, as well as highlighting the potential economic opportunities of establishing other aerotropoli across Africa.
The City of Ekurhuleni COO Dr Imogen Mashazi said the city was determined to capitalise on the opportunity of hosting ACE 2013.
“For the next couple of years the City of Ekurhuleni plans to optimise the existence of the biggest airport in Africa [OR Tambo International Airport], together with other key development nodes under the city’s new growth path – the Aerotropolis.
“This will entail investment on new infrastructure to support logistics, distribution and related green industries,” she indicated.