June 17, 2014 00:00 By Mayuree Sukyingcharoenwong
AirAsia, one of the world's leading low-cost airlines, has shown confidence in the economic growth of Myanmar and the country's tourism sector by bolstering its operations there.
Both in terms of its service and investment, AirAsia says it has been well received by Myanmar as the airline launched a fly-through service from Yangon and Mandalay, with a connection at Don Mueang Airport, to a variety of destinations, and all with a single baggage check and immigration pass.
At the same time, Thai AirAsia X has unveiled low-fare flights from Bangkok to South Korea that are serviced by the 377-seat Airbus A330-300.
Nadda Buranasiri, chief executive of Thai AirAsia X, said that over the past two years Myanmar’s tourism industry and investment between Myanmar and Thailand had grown rapidly.
Nadda said Myanmar and Indochina were two markets AirAsia was focusing on by continuously expanding the number of flight routes and frequency.
Designed to service flights of more than four hours, he said Thai AirAsia X would help strengthen Thai AirAsia’s network with the first route – Bangkok to Seoul – officially launched today. “In the near future the Asean Economic Community will be formed and spur even faster growth in Myanmar,” he said.
“We believe that by creating a strong foundation of flight destinations, AirAsia will be able to maintain its leadership in the low-fare segment in Myanmar.
“In the first five months of this year alone, the Bangkok-Yangon route saw a passenger increase of 15 per cent while Bangkok-Mandalay saw a 30-per-cent increase year on year. We expect that through our stimulation activities and marketing plan, these figures will continue to rise.”
Nadda said the airline would be another option for Myanmar tourists visiting Korea, with more than 63,000 descending on the country last year, while also providing them with a Bangkok connection.
“Those Myanmar travellers will be able to visit Thailand in advance so that they will enjoy more travel destinations in the one trip,” he said.
Chainarong Keratiyutwong, minister and deputy chief of mission at the Thai Embassy in Myanmar, said Thailand was the No 1 travel destination for people from that country.
He said that despite the military coup the number of Myanmar tourists applying for visas to Thailand had not declined. In the low season, the number of Myanmar people applying for visas was as high as 600 a day.
“The fare for flying from Myanmar to Thailand is now cheaper than taking the bus from Phuket to Bangkok,” he said.
“There are currently many low-cost airlines flying from Bangkok to Myanmar. Such cheap fares encourage a greater number of tourists from Myanmar to visit Thailand.”
Chainarong said the economy in Myanmar had been expanding rapidly and its gross domestic product was forecast to grow by 7 per cent this year.
He said the tourism industry there had greatly expanded over the past three years and was worth about US$1 billion (Bt32 billion) last year, up from $100 million in 2000.
Myanmar people were spending more money and the biggest investments in that country had been made by consumer-product companies, department stores and hotels.
He said the Myanmar government was focused on improving the country’s basic infrastructure.