President of Almaty International Airport Alp Er Tunga ERSOY:
OUR GOAL IS TO TURN ALMATY AIRPORT INTO A LARGEST TRANSIT CARGO HUB IN CENTRAL ASIA
Turkey’s TAV Airports Holding has recently bought the Almaty airport and is going to construct a state-of-the-art international terminal building in Almaty, which is scheduled to be commissioned in 2024. The new terminal will be able to serve at least 14 million passengers yearly together with the current terminal, which is double the capacity compared with today’s at the Almaty Airport.
TAV Airports Holding is a member of Groupe ADP which operates 26 airports all over the world. Holding plans to turn the Almaty airport into a largest cargo hub in Central Asia, to promote Kazakhstan and the Almaty region within the company operated airports and on other international platforms, to attract new airlines to Kazakhstan and so on. President of Almaty International Airport Alp Er Tunga ERSOY told Interfax-Kazakhstan in an interview about their plans.
- Why did TAV choose the city of Almaty but not Nur-Sultan? What is TAV’s opinion about the air transportation market in Kazakhstan, level of the services, hotels and tourism?
- As one of the leading companies in airport operations globally, we are interested in opportunities all around the world, which fits our financial and operational capabilities. We believe there’s a significant potential for growth in Almaty Airport. One of the main transit hubs between Asia and Europe, Almaty Airport is strategically located on ‘the modern Silk Road’, established from China to Europe and Africa. Almaty is the largest city in the country producing 20% of Kazakhstan’s GDP. It offers impeccable opportunities for investors from around the world and aims to strengthen its position as the financial center of the region. It’s important to note that with our partner, we bought the shares of Almaty Airport from a private owner, whereas Nur-sultan is a public owned airport.
Furthermore, Kazakhstan has diverse offerings of touristic attractions and has a good level of facilities and services. We’ll be working towards promoting Kazakhstan as a country and Almaty region in particular throughout our network and at international venues, in order to connect new destinations and increase the number of visitors.
- How big a contribution could Kazakhstan make to TAV’s financial results according to your expectations?
- In the five months since we took over operations in May, Almaty contributed to almost 26% of out 3Q revenue. This is a significant contribution, given the ongoing negative effects of the pandemic. We’re confident that our operations in Almaty will have a very positive impact on our financial performance in many years to come.
- Initially, TAV planned to buy the airport for $415 million, but later, because of the pandemic, the price was reduced to $365 million. Would you please tell us when are you planning to pay the remaining $50 million?
- Pandemic started in the middle of negotiations with the seller (the shareholder of the airport was Venus Airport Investments B.V., registered in Amsterdam - If-K). We agreed to pay additional $50 million when the traffic reaches the certain % of 2019 numbers. We really appreciate their understanding about how pandemic negatively affects the aviation industry.
- What changes will happen at the Almaty airport? How much are TAV investing in airport development?
- We are going to construct a state of art terminal building according to the latest technology in 2 years (until 2024 – If-K). Meanwhile, we are working with some modifications inside the current terminal building, particularly on the domestic side to enhance and facilitate the passenger flow. When we open the new International terminal building, current one will be used only for domestic flights, and we will not have any capacity problems.
Besides, our target is to make Almaty Airport the cargo hub of the Central Asia. Airport has railway and road connection that can enable it to be the cargo hub of the region.
We will also participate on ACI (Airport Council International) ASQ (Airport Service Quality) survey which has more than 500 participants all around the world. Our passengers will be able to rank us through this survey that consist of questions about check-in, boarding, security, passport, customs, airport staff behavior, duty free, food and beverage etc. Thus, we will measure the passenger satisfaction level and understand which services should be improved and enhanced.
In our PR department, a single service has been created to work with the appeals and complaints of our clients. We accept applications through all social networks, e-mail, phone calls and oral and written appeals. This service consolidates all passenger requests into a single database. We promptly respond to all requests and requests from our customers.
We’ll invest around $200 million to double the capacity of Almaty Airport and to improve services. As recently announced, we have secured $450 million in loans for this project, from the IFC and the EBRD.
- Do you plan to invite any hotel chain to the airport, new fuel supply and catering companies?
- We are considering airport hotel concept at Almaty International Airport. We cannot give a specific date but probably we might have an airport hotel after opening of the new International terminal because number of transit/transfer passenger is the main factor for such investment.
In terms of fuel supply and catering companies, TAV Airports has its own service companies i.e., duty free, food and beverage, technology, security, ground handling, lounge operations which are specialized in their fields. Currently, we, as Almaty International Airport, are providing fuel and catering services at the airport.
- What are your projections for passenger traffic at the airport in 2022 and for the next 5 years?
- IATA expects total number of passengers worldwide in 2022 to reach around 75% of 2019 level. We could expect a better performance from Almaty owing to the strong growth in domestic passengers.
Next year we are waiting improving international passenger number, because country has easy restrictions. What is important that we know how to operate airports during pandemic. We just received certification from ACI about health accreditation which means we comply international standards to provide a healthy environment for passengers.
- Are there any new air carriers you plan to bring to Kazakhstan?
- Qatar Airways will start flights from Almaty to Doha from November 19 and Jazeera Airways will begin flights to Almaty from Kuwait from December. The Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz air will also start flights in the near future.
Of course, we would like to introduce new airlines and new destinations. However, since negative impact of Covid 19 still continues, airlines are more conservative to enter new markets. Nevertheless, airlines are working with the topic of recovering their loss during the pandemic.
Our team together with the marketing departments of each TAV airport is constantly communicating with airlines and tour operators, attending international aviation and tourism events (routes, IATA slot coordination, ITB Berlin, World Tourism Conferences and fairs etc.) to attract new airlines to our airports and improve the cooperation with the existing airlines.
- During your management of the airport in Georgia, the tourist flow into this country increased. Do you have any plans for Kazakhstan as to how the tourist flow into the republic can be increased?
- The success in Georgia or in any other country in terms of the development of tourism is a result of the whole team working. All the participants of the process, ministries, airlines, hoteliers, tour operators, airports etc., should work together, develop a plan, and then execute it. We are ready to be part the part of the plan.
- Do the local authorities and the monopoly companies provide you all necessary assistance to implement your plans? Or maybe there are some hindrances here?
- We are very happy for the cooperation and collaboration of state institutions they have been providing us. We would like to take this chance to express our thankful to MIID, Investment Agency, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Customs, Border Police, Airlines, and customers for their cooperation and hospitality.
- Thank you for the interview!
© 2022 Interfax-Kazakhstan news agency
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