Global aerotropolis trend
Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality
August 7th, 2012
A prominent US academic has described the Ekurhuleni suburb of Rhodesfield as “a potential gold mine” once it is developed into South Africa’s first aerotropolis – a growing international trend of developing a mini city around an airport.
Professor John Kasarda, who is recognised as the developer of the aerotropolis concept, says that Rhodesfield’s proximity to OR Tambo International Aiport, the Gautrain and Ekurhuleni’s economic hub of Kempton Park makes it an ideal hub for the country’s first airport city. This follows an announcement last year by the mayor of Ekurhuleni that the metropole would host the continent’s first aerotropolis.
The KwaZulu-Natal government has also subsequently revealed plans for an aerotropolis around the King Shaka International Airport and Cape Town has hinted at doing the same.
Denel Aerostructures CEO Ismail Dockrat says passenger and cargo air traffic to OR Tambo are projected to grow at a rate of more than five percent per year for the next two decades, with the number of commercial aircraft arriving at the international airport set to more than double by 2030.
It is estimated that the development of an Ekurhuleni aerotropolis will create 62 000 jobs and generate R42 billion for the economy.
The planned aerotropolis development follows an emerging global trend. China, for example, has plans to build 100 new airports by 2020, most of them on the aerotropolis model. By 2020, 82% of China’s population will live within 90 minutes of an airport.
The InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), which books more than 153 million room nights for guests each year, has identified aerotropoli as an important development in its 2012 Trend Report, saying the proliferation of aerotropoli is set to continue – the result of changes in travel patterns across the globe.
“For aerotropli in South Africa to be a success, investors and government need to proceed cautiously and make wise decisions based on demand and the scope for growth in the areas which have been earmarked,” says Andrew Davidson, general manager of the InterContinental hotel at OR Tambo Airport.
“In South Africa, we’re seeing cities capitalising on the need for retail, conferencing and accommodation establishments close to airports. OR Tambo is linked to a modern road system which connects Ekurhuleni to South Africa’s political capital, Pretoria and Africa’s economic powerhouse, Johannesburg.
“Travelling from the airport to a business meeting in Sandton, Rosebank or Pretoria is now very easy and the location of a number of luxury hotels at OR Tambo means business travellers can be based at the airport within a safe, easy walk from the international arrivals and departures hall”, says Davidson.
Based on the profile of guests staying at the airport hotels, he believes that as an emerging market and a member of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), South Africa is now enjoying growing trade with other emerging economies.
“Companies from these countries are recognising business opportunities in South Africa. South African business is also recognising new opportunities. With increased trade will come even more passenger and air cargo traffic,” says Davidson.
As evidence of Ekurhuleni’s growing status as an emerging business hub, the city will host the Airport Cities World Conference and Exhibition (ACE) in April 2013. This conference brings together various players in the air travel industry as well businesses which benefit from air travel.
Whatever the outcome of the planned aerotropoli developments in South Africa, what is clear is that the trend internationally is towards building more of them in the near future, says Davidson.
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