Interview: Usanee Sangsingkeo
What competitive advantages does Thailand hold with regard to its goal of becoming a regional hub for global aviation and aerospace?
USANEE SANGSINGKEO: Thailand is centrally located in South-east Asia, and boasts an efficient logistics network across land, sea and air transport, which has led to a well-developed regional connectivity. In 2016, some 98 airlines operated to and from Suvarnabhumi Airport, with a capacity of 73m seats. Thailand’s tourism industry contributed to robust growth in air passenger traffic, which will help the country become a regional and global aviation centre in South-east Asia. In addition, the above mentioned factors are in line with the government’s promotion of the aerospace industry as a targeted new economic sector to drive future growth, especially in key projects such as the Airports of Thailand’s international airport expansion plans for future growth and the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) development project.
How can foreign direct investment and technology transfer from multinationals assist in the development of a large-scale aerospace industry?
USANEE: Thailand would like to promote the EEC project as a complete futuristic territory that will connect Asia and the world, and will be a holistic development gateway to Asia. So, the private sector, including foreign companies, will be also be allowed to make investments via the public-private partnership programme.
THAI signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbus to study business opportunities concerning maintenance, repair and overhaul campus development. This project has raised Thailand’s profile as the aviation hub of South-east Asia.
Which regional and global markets hold the greatest tourism potential for Thailand in 2017?
USANEE: The Russian market has significant potential as visitor numbers continue to increase rapidly. THAI relaunched services to Moscow in late 2016, and is therefore, well positioned to capture a share of this growth market. The Chinese market remains a priority as the annual number of Chinese travellers to Thailand approaches 10m. We are seeing Chinese visitation return strongly after the total market decline experienced in the second half of 2016. In line with customer demand, THAI has launched a non-stop Beijing-Phuket operation. This service has become very popular for customers, who prefer direct access to Phuket. More broadly, Thailand remains an extremely popular destination for Chinese travellers, and that market will continue to grow. We continue to see strong support from South-east Asia, Indochina, Australasia, Japan and on the Indian subcontinent. From the Bangkok hub, Europe and Australasia, China and the Middle East or Japan and the Indian subcontinent are easily reached. This enables our carriers to offer network propositions to our customers and provides us with access to offline markets that have potential for growth.
What steps need to be taken to achieve full liberalisation of the region’s air transport sector?
USANEE: After the full ratification of the ASEAN open skies agreement by all member states in 2016, in principle all airlines of ASEAN member states can operate with unlimited capacity and frequency within the ASEAN region with no restriction in terms of routing.
In particular, THAI still focuses its operations on capital and major cities in the ASEAN region, namely Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Singapore, Jakarta, Denpasar, Kuala Lumpur, Yangon and Manila. In order to achieve full liberalisation of the ASEAN air transport sector, THAI as the national carrier will support decisions made by the Ministry of Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand. THAI will continue to work closely with both organisations, providing viewpoints and observations that should help lead to a joint decision that will be viewed as mutually beneficial to Thailand and all of its domestic airline companies.
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