I’ve spent the last week attending and participating in the ACI World annual conference. This meeting was originally scheduled for Cairo, but for obvious reasons needed to be moved. As a result, the meeting was held in the beautiful city of Marrakech, Morocco. The annual meeting of ACI Africa was also held there.
Normally, these meetings are scheduled years in advance. I recall at last year’s conference in Bermuda, the folks from Egypt were happily looking forward to hosting us. By spring, it became obvious the meeting would need to be moved. The people in Marrakech stepped up in a big way and have delivered an event that has benefitted the membership, while also providing an enjoyable experience and a glimpse into Moroccan culture and history.
Winston Churchill spent a great deal of time here and did a lot of painting here. One time he brought Franklin Roosevelt here and told him it was the most beautiful place on earth.
Although the global airport industry has faced great economic challenges, not to mention the continuing threat of terrorist attack, I found a great deal of optimism in Marrakech. I have always felt that airport CEOs are among the best business people I have ever met and everything I have seen here confirms that. The industry is recovering from the body blows it has absorbed these past few years and it’s leaders are now determined to move forward.
One of the nice things about this conference is that ACI World raises funds from a number of it’s members in the developed world and uses those funds to make it possible for airport managers from some developing countries to be here. For example, I spoke the other night with the airport manager from Eritrea. He is a very smart and determined fellow, and clearly felt he was able to benefit by his exposure to colleagues around the world, and to their best ideas.
One of the most interesting conversations I had was one of the shorter ones. I had the opportunity to meet the new chair of the airport authority in Libya. I congratulated him on what his people have accomplished and offered whatever assistance we could provide. He looked at me and said, “We are now free.” Quite something.
This conference marked the last meeting as ACI World chair for Max Moore-Wilton. Max is the chair of the Sydney airport. He is smart, determined and full of enthusiasm and passion for the industry. He has made a real difference as chair. He will be succeeded by Yiannis Paraschis of Athens, who has been vice chair the past two years and has also contributed a great deal to the organization and industry. Rick Piccolo, a past chair of ACI-NA, will be World Vice Chair the next two years. Rick has done so much for the world organization these past several years and will do a great job in the leadership.
My friend and colleague, Maggie Kwok, the regional director from ACI Asia-Pacific, announced her retirement. Maggie has one of the toughest jobs in the ACI family, with a territory that extends from the Arab Middle East across Asia and the Pacific all the way to Hawaii. She has done a terrific job and I will miss her. She is being succeeded by Patti Chau, who has worked for ACI Asia-Pacific for many years and will be great in that role. I look forward to working with her for many years to come.
I have attended every ACI regional conference this year except for the Asia-Pacific meeting. I have found, uniformly, a renewed sense of energy and optimism. I am personally upbeat about the future, and I know that when the airport world convenes again next year in the wonderful city of Calgary (together with the ACI-NA meeting) this feeling will only be enhanced and a great many new achievements will be celebrated there.