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Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate

Published on  06 November by Matthys Serfontein , Vice President, Airport Solution Line, SITA
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Euro ICT Forum 2015

As you can imagine from my last post, it was a huge relief for me to get my US passport in time to attend the Euro ICT Forum 2015.

Not only was it nice to visit face-to-face with many of our customers from airports across Europe but I also had the pleasure of speaking during the first-day Insight Session, “The Digital Airport. Smart technology. Smarter airports.”

This session highlighted the new emphasis that airports are applying with their IT: using digital experiences to create a true sense of place and to de-stress the passenger experience. From way-finding and retail to cultural experiences and entertainment, airports are applying IT in new ways to engage with the connected traveler.

I also had the pleasure of releasing the results of this year’s Airport IT Trends Survey, co-sponsored by Airports Council International (ACI) and SITA, and in association with Airline Business. Generating responses from 223 airports worldwide, the survey revealed three key areas of focus for airports:

  1. IT strategy
  2. Passenger management
  3. Business intelligence

These areas are especially important as airports face rising passenger numbers and greater pressure on capacity and infrastructure.

The good news is that airports globally – including Europe – are increasing their IT spend to accommodate growth. Airports are spending a total of US$ 8.7 billion in 2015, representing 6.25% of total revenue, up from 5.82% last year. And 64% of airport CIOs expect their budgets to increase for 2016, as well.

The survey shows that in Europe, airports increased their total IT&T spend to 3.89% from 3.73% the previous year.

Passenger processing leads the way in terms of spend priority. A clear majority (73%) of airports around the world rate passenger processing as a high priority for IT spend – up from 59% the previous year.

To some, the messages of the event and the IT Trends Survey may seem ambitious or even optimistic. After all, the current situation of airports in Europe is very challenging – especially for small, regional ones. But there are also examples of outstanding performance. Greece, our host state for the event, is a great example. Despite its well-documented economic struggles of late, with a significant decrease in gross domestic product (GDP), its airports are doing very well. A similar situation exists in Russia, where the recent decrease in international travelers has been absorbed by an increase in domestic traffic.

Our host city of Athens provided a nice thematic backdrop to the event. For, as our own Dave Bakker, SITA President Europe, pointed out during our tour of the Acropolis Museum, it could not have been built without the cooperation and collaboration of many people and entities.

This was the umbrella message of this year’s Euro ICT Forum – for air transport in general and for the airport of the future in particular. If we don’t come together as one, all stakeholders inside and outside the industry, we will fail the test of history and the future will hold us accountable for it.

If we do come together and truly collaborate – airports and airlines, regulators and government agencies, technology providers and retailers – there’s no telling what we can accomplish. And with emerging technologies like the Internet of Things just around the corner, there’s no telling what that future will look like.

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