Suvarnabhumi Airport

The High-tech Centerpiece of Thailand’s Transportation Infrastructure

“ Location near the airport will put . . . businesses within easy reach of the bright lights of downtown Bangkok as well as the industrial estates of the Eastern Seaboard. ”

Source: Thailand Board of Investment's Investment Review Publication

The BOI Investment Review is a monthly publication of the Thailand Board of Investment. and Runckel & Associates believe that much of this information needs wider dissemination.  We are therefore working with the BOI to help promote these useful articles and index them into categories that are easy to find.

By Paul Wedel

The most important piece of Thailand’s improved transportation infrastructure will be Suvarnabhumi (pronounced soo wan na poom) Airport, now in the final phases of construction. In a recent radio address Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said the new airport will enable Thailand to become an aviation hub for the region - a development that will benefit a variety of important new investments.

The airport, graciously named by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, is expected to open for commercial traffic by the end of September 2005. But more important than the opening date are the expanded facilities and advanced equipment that will move both passengers and cargo more efficiently on a greater scale than anywhere else in the region. Suvarnabhumi Airport will be able to handle 45 million passengers per year, compared to the 35 million passengers per year capacity of the present airport at Don Muang. Its twin runways (expandable to four) are designed for peak period loads of up to 76 aircraft take-offs and landings per hour. Provisions for future capacity increases will provide for up to 100 million passengers.

The innovative steel and glass passenger terminal includes a roof trellis designed to shade the building against the tropical sun, reducing the cost of air conditioning. Seven floors and a basement give the terminal a total floor area of more than a half million square meters, among the largest in the world. On opening day, the airport will support cargo handling facilities for 3 million tons per year - capacity that can be doubled as demand grows.

Easy links to highways north, south and west of the airport will offer rapid transport to the city center or to the tourist areas on the eastern coast as well as to nearby industrial estates. Within two years of start-up of the new airport, the government plans to complete a direct rail link to the center of Bangkok with connections to the skytrain and subway systems.

The capacity and facilities of the new airport will reinforce Thailand’s position as the center of aviation in the region. An “open skies” policy for cargo is designed to encourage investment by integrated air carriers and air cargo service providers, which will increase the attraction of Thailand to manufacturers of high value to weight products such as integrated circuits, hard disk drives, chips, fresh seafood, high fashion garments and pharmaceuticals. As a regional hub, the new airport will make Bangkok the logical center for trade shows, E-commerce fulfillment centers, conferences and wholesale markets.

The facilities are also designed for the new extended range aircraft - the Boeing 777 and the Airbus 380 - thus enabling non-stop flights to the United States. These flights, coupled with a general increase in flights to Europe and within the region, will increase Thailand’s attractiveness as a regional headquarters for multi-national corporations. Location near the airport will put such businesses within easy reach of the bright lights of downtown Bangkok as well as the industrial estates of the eastern seaboard. This will make the new facility highly attractive to information based concerns such as legal and financial services, consulting, advertising and entertainment.

Prime Minister Thaksin future-oriented noted that design of the airport will not stop at the airport’s gates, but extend to the undeveloped land around the airport to make the area even more appealing to these types of businesses. He indicated that his government is planning the development of the “Suvarnabhumi Aerotropolis” - focusing long term land use design on the needs of air-related services, high-value manufacturing and regional headquarters. The plan, covering the next 30 years, will provide for carefully designed development zones and construction of more transportation links to both the east and the west.

Dr. John Kasarda, professor at the Kenan-Flagler Business School and an authority on the “aerotropolis” model, has predicted a rapid growth in investment and employment spurred by the new airport. In a paper for the Thai government he recommended holding land in reserve for new and unexpected developments. “Like the growth in air traffic, airport-related businesses will develop over a specific time horizon, in some cases building on their own synergies and expansion. If the full value of the Suvarnabhumi Aerotropolis is to be achieved, businesses and investments must therefore be given the space and time to achieve continuity, unimpeded by non-compatible uses and congestion.” Whether it is a regional headquarters, a new computer plant, a logistics service or a new hotel, the Suvarnabhumi Airport will soon provide the speed, services and connectivity to make these investments pay off.

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