Feb 7, 2012

Airlines starting to look at Myanmar

With the expected ramp up in tourism in Myanmar in the coming year, some airlines are wondering how long it will be before they can schedule more flights to benefit from an influx of business people and tourists, in spite of woefully weak infrastructure.

Emerging democratic reforms are leading to renewed interests in the country after decades of isolation, economic sanctions and a formerly repressive military regime.

Reuters news agency said Monday that Thai Airways International PCL, SilkAir, AirAsia Bhd, and JetStar are seen as the main beneficiaries from the opening up of the country. Each airline has a history of service to the International Airport in Yangon.

“This is a huge country which will provide new growth for airlines, especially the low cost carriers,” Standard and Poor’s analyst Shukor Yusof told Reuters, adding that the yields that carriers enjoy on Yangon routes have been good.

Besides the lingering patina of British colonial buildings, ancient Buddhist temples and pristine beaches, the country is expected to attract the more adventurous tourists who want something different than the hustle and bustle capitals of Southeast Asia.

During the 2010-2011 (April-March) fiscal year, about 424,000 people visited Myanmar, according to official data, Reuters said. That compares to around 19 million tourists in Thailand each year.

Thai AirAsia CEO Tassapon Bijleveld told Reuters, “We are considering opening more flights and destinations in Myanmar. We're only operating to Yangon at the moment, but we're currently looking at Mandalay and Bagan.”

Some major hotel operators, including Starwood Hotels & Resorts – which runs chains such as Westin, Sheraton and Le Meridien – and Marriott International said recently that they wanted to start operating hotels in Myanmar.

Source: Mizzima