YACL to work with govt in effort to lure European tourists as growth slows
Yangon Aerodrome Company Ltd (YACL) is in negotiations with Lufthansa for the German airline to operate a direct flight between Frankfurt and Yangon. The move is part of efforts to lure European visitors back to Myanmar, Mr. Jose Angeja, chief operating officer of YACL, told The Myanmar Times on November 15 during a press conference at the Yangon International Airport (YIA).
“We have been in conservation with Lufthansa for at least nine months. It’s taking some time because they also need to understand the Myanmar market,” Mr Angeja said. He added that negotiations are likely to result in a stopover flight from Frankfurt at a Vietnamese city, as the number of passengers for a direct flight to Yangon is still insufficient to justify the costs.
On November 1, the Italian airline Neos Spa began operating a scheduled Boeing 767 flight from Milan to Yangon every Wednesday. The flight will stop over in Phu Quoc, Vietnam before landing at Yangon International Airport. Neos is first airline to fly from Europe to Myanmar.
YACL is also in talks with Turkish Airlines and Qantas Airways to establish direct flights between Yangon and Istanbul and Sydney, respectively, in the near future. Yangon International Airport, which is managed by YACL, currently serves 31 international airlines from 25 in October 2015. The most recent is Sichuan Airlines from China, which completed its first flight to YIA on November 13. YIA now connects to 29 international destinations, compared to 21 previously.
“We are doing our best to bring more airlines to Yangon. We are targeting the European market because visitors from Europe have higher spending power,” Mr Angeja said.
Moving forward, YIA will work closely with the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism to address concerns arising from slower growth and to increase international air connectivity by directly marketing to airlines to open new routes and MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and events) organieers to promote Myanmar as a location for international events.
YACL is working on raising the capacity of YIA as growth in air passenger traffic dips to its lowest level in five years. While tourist arrivals from Asian markets have continued to grow this year, travelers from the European and North American markets appear to have been impacted by international media reports on the Rakhine crisis in Myanmar.
According to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, Myanmar received 2.5 million international visitors up to September this year, which is flat compared with the same period last year. While tourist arrivals from Thailand, China, India and Malaysia are up between 5pc and 33pc year-on-year, a drop in the number of tourists from Europe offset those gains.
This year, YACL is expecting a 2.5 percent year –on –year increase in air passenger traffic to six million in 2018. On November 15, it welcomed its 5 millionth passenger so far this year.
Over the past five years, air passenger growth at YIA – by far the busiest of Myanmar’s three international airports – has increased at an average of 8.6pc per year, according to YACL.
YACL took over YIA’s operation and management in October 2015 under a Public-Private Partnership tender from Myanmar’s Department of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Transport and Communications. The agreement is for 30 years of operation, with an option to renew for a further 20 years.
This year, YIA has increased movements per year from 62,937 in October 2015 to 77,000 per year currently, Mr Angeja said. One movement refers to one takeoff or one landing. YIA has the potential to operate up to 170,000 movements per year, which is almost on par with major single-runway airports such as Xiamen, China, with 192,000 movements and Fukuoka, Japan, with 183,000 movements.
It also installed up to 30 new check-in counters at Terminal 1 of the airport.
Over the next two to three years, YIA’s further enhancements will include another parking apron for up to 13 Boeing 737 aircraft. YIA can now handle wide-body aircraft including B777-300ER and A350. It will also involve construction of a rapid exit taxiway and maintenance hangars as well as the upgrade of the old Terminal 2.