Taipei, Projects to expand the capacity of the main international airports in central and southern Taiwan are being stepped up in anticipation of more travel between Taiwan and Southeast Asia because of the government's "New Southbound Policy."
"We are accelerating the pace of renovating the Kaohsiung International Airport in response to the New Southbound Policy," Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) official Lin Hung-hsien (???) told CNA on Wednesday.
"The renovation of the Kaohsiung airport is now projected to be completed in 2025, three years ahead of schedule," he said.
By that time, the terminal that currently serves only domestic fights will be able to accommodate 4 million international flight passengers and 1 million domestic flight passengers, bringing the airport's total capacity to 11 million passengers per year, he said.
The domestic terminal now handles some 1 million passengers a year, while the terminal for overseas flights serves 6 million passengers.
The expansion project also includes building new aprons and a public transport access system at an estimated cost of NT$25.2 billion (US$850 million), according to Lin.
Though the New Southbound Policy helped spur an increase in tourists from Southeast Asia in 2017, Kaohsiung International Airport handled about the same number of passengers in 2017 (6.47 million) that it did in 2016 (6.40 million), CAA data showed.
A similar expansion project for Taichung International Airport in central Taiwan expected to cost NT$22.5 billion has also been launched, with new plans for a third terminal.
Completion of the renovation of Terminal 1 set to be completed by 2020 will increase the two-terminal airport's capacity to 3.2 million passengers, Lin said, from about 2.9 million passengers at present.
Last year, Taichung airport handled 2.39 million arrivals and departures, up only slightly from 2.38 million recorded in 2016, CAA data showed.
As the airport is also facing a shortage of aprons, seven new aprons will be built to ease congestion on its taxiways and runways, Lin said.
In addition, a third terminal is now being planned that would increase the airport's capacity by an additional 1 million passengers per year, but a decision on whether or not to go through with it will depend on growth in international travel demand, he said.
The New Southbound Policy is aimed at increasing trade and other forms of exchanges between Taiwan and countries in South and Southeast Asia along with Australia and New Zealand.
The policy was adopted in May 2016 when President Tsai Ing-wen (???) took office to reduce Taiwan's economic dependence on China.
It has helped offset the drop in visitor arrivals from China after Tsai assumed power by boosting visitors from Southeast Asia, especially from Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand.
As seen by the generally flat passenger numbers in Kaohsiung and Taichung in 2017, however, it remains unclear how much of an impact it will have on overall travel growth in those cities and in Taiwan as a whole in the future.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel