Home' Asian Aviation : AAV March 2016 Contents AsianAviation | MARCH 2016 35
espite comparatively small numbers of
visitors arriving by air, Myanmar’s aviation
sector is enjoying a boom of sorts, one
that is good for the country’s nascent
tourism industry but one that is also stretching its
infrastructure to the limit.
Myanmar welcomed 4.68 million tourists in 2015,
according to figures from the Ministry of Hotels and
Tourism, although of these the majority, some 3.37
million, were land crossings. That compares to the
3.08 million arrivals in 2014 and the relatively miniscule
number of 800,000 visitors in 2011.
Determining how many exactly arrive by air is
a bit difficult as there are discrepancies between
government and other statistics, but most estimates
put the number well over one million who flew into the
emerging Southeast Asian country. In Yangon alone,
more than one million arrivals were recorded, a 13.1
percent increase from 2014 with over 107,000 flying
into Mandalay Airport.
“The market is largely driven by demand for
inbound leisure travel, with Thailand, China, Japan,
USA, Korea, Singapore and Malaysia the main
source markets. Europe is another important source
market for long haul tourists,” Andrew Herdman,
director general of the Association of Asia Pacific
Airlines (AAPA) tells Asian Aviation.
The boom in arrivals is straining the country’s
tourism sector and “the biggest challenge to this
growth is the state of infrastructure development,”
says Ilya Gutlin, Asia-Pacific president for technology
provider SITA. “A tremendous amount of seat
capacity has been added in a short span of time
and this has put a lot of strain on the country’s
infrastructure,” he says.
“It’s not just airports, but also roads, railways, hotels
— all of which are all urgently needed to support the
industry’s growth. Millions of dollars have already been
spent in improving the infrastructure and this trend
needs to continue in the coming years in order to
enable the growth in the country,” Gutlin says.
For a country like Myanmar finding the necessary
money to invest is a tall order, although multinational
companies are setting up shop in the country in all
sectors. Despite its formidable tourist resources,
mineral wealth and economic potential, the country
remains relatively poor compared to its neighbours,
agreement,” the consortium said in a statement at
the time of signing.
The facility will be built on a site of approximately
9,000 acres, 80 km northeast of Yangon near
Bago. The new Hanthawaddy International Airport
is expected to have an initial capacity of 12 million
passengers per annum, making it the largest airport
and Myanmar’s main gateway.
New hardware in the shape of a new airport will
bring with it another problem, as AAPA’s Herdman
“The challenge is that the associated aviation
infrastructure, including airports, runways and
terminals, as well as air navigation services, must also
keep pace with the expected growth in demand. This
requires close coordination involving governments
and industry working together,” he says.
There is going to be the need, possibly a profound
need, to build a great deal of capacity quickly, most
experts agree. Complicating this is the nature of the
market, where the national carrier Myanmar Airways
International boasts a fleet of seven Airbus A320s
for seven destinations including Gaya in India,
Guangzhou in China, Bangkok, Langkawi in Malaysia
and Kuala Lumpur as well as Singapore.
So small a presence is hampered by at least 10
Myanmar registered airlines serving the domestic
market. Compounding this is a problem previously
flagged by CAPA, the Centre for Aviation. In the
earlier days of the opening up of Myanmar, it noted
the problem of fragmentation especially as only
two carriers had a fleet of more than five planes —
Myanmar Airways and Air KBZ.
“This hardly provides any economies of scale,”
CAPA said, a judgment still valid today as is the
CAPA view that “consolidation is inevitable.” How
messy and protracted that will be is anybody’s guess.
Complicating the current situation further, more
than 23 foreign carriers already fly into Myanmar.
“The domestic aviation market within Myanmar
remains highly fragmented, but given the
considerable potential for Myanmar to develop its
economy, over time we can expect to see significant
growth in local demand for air travel based on
growing numbers of middle-income consumers, as
we have seen happen in many other Asian markets,”
AAPA’s Herdman says. ✈
With the opening up of the “golden land” of Myanmar following the easing of Western sanctions, the country is being inundated
with travellers that are stretching its tourism infrastructure. Michael Mackey looks at what the air sector is facing.
Myanmar faces infrastructure challenges
strangled by decades of isolation that cut off funding
for building airports, roads, hotels and all the other
tools necessary for a thriving tourism sector.
Myanmar is a large country with a population
estimated at around 54 million and only two significant
airports. More tellingly the World Bank estimates only
30 percent of the population are connected to the
electricity grid, meaning other priorities aside from
the air sector rate higher on the priority list.
The air sector did get a boost in 2014 with the
signing of an agreement by a consortium to build
a new airport. The group is made up of JGC Corp.
(55 percent), Yongnam Holdings (25percent), and
Changi Airports International (20 percent). The group
signed the agreement with Myanmar’s Department of
Civil Aviation (DCA).
“The signing of the framework agreement marks
an important step towards the eventual inking of
the Hanthawaddy International Airport concession
“The biggest challenge to this growth is
the state of infrastructure development. A
tremendous amount of seat capacity has
been added in a short span of time...”
President Asia/Pacific. SITA
SITA President Ilya Gutlin
3/03/2016 7:21:27 PM
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