Myanmar country manager for airline Cathay Dragon
Hong Kong-based Cathay Dragon is one of only two airlines flying directly from Yangon to Hong Kong – the other being Myanmar National Airlines. Cathay Dragon, which previously operated as Dragonair, recently increased its servicing of the route from seven to 11 flights per week.
Myanmore sits down with the airline’s country manager Nicholas Bury to talk about the increasing demand for travel to Hong Kong and opportunities for growth in Myanmar.
When did Cathay Dragon arrive in Myanmar?
We started the operation in early 2013. We came here five years ago, in late 2012. Initially we started off with just four flights a week. Later, we got to daily flights, which we have had for two years. Now, we have added an additional four flights per week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
The additional four flights are actually a 60-percent increase in capacity, which deems as a big increase for Myanmar. It is our challenge to fill the seats. Those flights go direct to Hong Kong. The benefit of the flight is it gives you great connections to other flights.
Why did the company initially move to Myanmar?
Five years ago, it was the time when Myanmar was opening up. It’s always going to be a good opportunity market. The country is situated in a strategic location, close to Hong Kong and a part of Southeast Asia, which has great market opportunity. What Cathay Pacific group tries to do is to open new destinations to Hong Kong people. The idea behind it, at that time, was to open a new destination, a new investment opportunity for people, and a leisure destination.
What makes Cathay Dragon still stand strong in the market?
Although the Cathay brand is relatively small in the Myanmar market, we stand for quality, safety and service excellence. These things are the core parts of the brand. I think people really appreciate it. Though we are competitive on pricing, people are prepared to pay a bit more for it.
Who are your target customers?
The way we work is we have sales all across the world. People are traveling from all over the world to come to Myanmar. In terms of the numbers of the people who come here, our top inbound markets are Hong Kong, China, the US, and Taiwan. For people going outside of Myanmar, we do a lot of business traffic. People are traveling for business reasons. We have some Hong Kong businesses invested in Myanmar and Myanmar people are also travelling to Hong Kong for work purposes. A lot of traffic is to and from Hong Kong. We also have traffic from connecting flights. Apart from business, we also have leisure, and VFR [visiting friends and relatives] to the US. The US is also our biggest market outside Hong Kong.
What are the reasons for the increase in the frequency of the flights?
In our previous schedules, it was kind of anti-social times. It was a late-night flight, 1am departure. Some people like it because they can be there in time for a full-day work or you can transit to particular places such as Japan, Korea, or China. However, we want to give more choices to the customers. Rather than changing the current flight time, we have added flights. Apart from more choices, we have seen opportunities of growth in Myanmar. Right now, the market is unsure or the investment scene is a bit unsure on where to go in Myanmar, but the long-term future is clear. You can see Singapore and China are both investing in Myanmar in a big way. I think Myanmar will continue to grow.
Due to the uncertainty in Myanmar’s business scene, do you plan to target more Myanmar people visiting Hong Kong for leisure?
Good question. Myanmar people like to travel in the region – places like Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam or Bali – which are quite close and they don’t need a visa. So, we want to promote Hong Kong as a leisure destination. It is a fantastic city for everyone.
Do Myanmar people need a visa to visit Hong Kong?
It’s quite a straightforward process. We hope that with Myanmar being under the ‘One Road’ initiative, there will be a look for ways to facilitate trade and investment between Hong Kong, China and Myanmar. For our part, we are trying to promote Hong Kong as more than just Disneyland and dim sum.