Mekong Trends - Air Transport Snapshot - A Bright Future

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Mekong Trends Snapshots

May 2017 Dear Mekong Travel and Tourism Colleagues. We are delighted to introduce the first of a planned series of “Mekong Trends” snapshots. Mekong Trends is a new public-private partnership where we hope to deliver valuable industry intelligence on specific and relevant topics. Mekong Trends is owned and operated by CEN International, and published for the industry, on behalf of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) and the National Tourism Organizations of the six member governments of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) (Cambodia, People’s Republic of China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam). Tourism is one of the key components of many GMS economies. Greater regional connectivity will provide the sector with a big boost, which in turn will catalyze job creation and economic growth. Tourism in the GMS region has been transformed over the last decade or so, owing largely to a significant rise in disposable income and also due to the proliferation of of low cost carriers (LCCs) and a large number of new flight routes, making travel easier and more affordable. As ASEAN pursues greater regional integration and the development of a single economic community, advancements in the region’s aviation industry are essential to boost economic connectivity and tourism. Half the world’s population live within five hours of ASEAN, making it a natural transportation hub for visiting the region’s sunny beaches, accessing growing economic opportunities. Therefore, it is fitting that our first Mekong Trends Snapshot covers GMS Aviation. This edition provides a quick overview and some key insights on important developments and trends. I would like to thank Mr. Luc Citrinot for preparing this report as well as Mr. David Gillbanks for editing, and our editorial advisors, Mr. Peter Wiesner and Mr. Don Ross. Please enjoy this first Mekong Trends edition, and please feel free to share it with your friends and colleagues. Kind regards,

Jens Thraenhart Executive Director Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO)

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Golden triangle


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Putao Khamti


Tengchong Myitkyina Bhamo



Naypyidaw Kyaukpyu Thandwe


Baoshan Dehong

Kalaymyo Lashio Mandalay



Liuzhou Nanning


Kengtung Tachilek


Chiang Rai Luang Prabang Chiang Mai Lampang







Beihai Hai Phong Thanh Hoa Vinh

Dong Hoi Loei Nakhon Phanom Udon Thani Sakon Nakhon Yangon Phitsanulok Hue Khon KaenSavannakhet Mawlamyaing Danang Roi Et Pakse Ubon Ratchathani Bangkok DMK Dawei Pleiku Quy Nhon Myeik

Bangkok BKK Siem Reap


Surat Thani Krabi

Buon Ma Thuot Nha Trang

Da Lat Phnom Penh Sihanoukville Ho Chi Minh City Phu Quoc Can Tho Ko Samui Nakhon Si Thammarat

Phuket Trang Hat Yai

Table of Contents Snapshot introduction: A Bright Future I.Air transport’s historical importance


III.Open skies in ASEAN and GMS


II.GMS air transport statistic

a. The benefits of open skies b. China-focused growth c. The LCC effect

IV.Thai-Vietnamese expansion

a. Vietnam Airlines’ ambitions

b. Thai Airways’ dual-branding c. LCCs turn up the heat

V.Improved intra-GMS connectivity VI.GMS airports: on the fast track

a. Bangkok: expansion to take off

b. Kunming: the Spring City emerges

c. Phnom Penh: a new long haul destination

10 15 16 17 19 20 22 25 29 33 34 34 35

Snapshot Summary: A Bright Future


MTCO Documents


Further Reading Disclaimer

40 46

Mekong Trends Snapshots


BE A GMS TREND SETTER Mekong Trends is calling for sponsorship for our next Snapshots. Mekong Trends is calling for sponsorship and contributors for our next Snapshots. Contribute insights and increase your exposure in the region. Have your brand connected to up-to-date information relevant to the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) tourism and services industry. Please contact for details.

I. AIR TRANSPORT’S HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE Thailand was the first GMS country to embrace the concept of an international aviation hub. Bangkok’s hub status started in the 1960s; far ahead of its main Southeast Asian competitors at the time: Singapore, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam), and Rangoon (Yangon, Myanmar). And it consolidated and grew alongside the Kingdom’s thriving tourism industry. The opening of Don Mueang International Airport Terminal 1 in 1981, coupled with the modernisation of Thailand’s national carrier, Thai Airways International, helped to position Bangkok as the Mekong region‘s hub, as tourism in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam expanded during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Bangkok Airways emerged as a regional pioneer, contributing to the development of destinations in both Thailand and its GMS neighbours. In addition to opening up the Thai island Koh Samui, where it owned the airstrip, the boutique carrier also launched the first direct flight from Bangkok to Siem Reap, Cambodia in 1996. It was also the first carrier to fly international routes to Danang, Viet Nam; Luang Prabang, Lao PDR; and Nay Pyi Daw, Myanmar. While Bangkok continues to be the GMS’ busiest aviation hub, serious competition has emerged since the 2000s: Kunming International Airport in China’s Yunnan Province, is now the Mekong region’s second largest in terms of traffic. Serving close to 40 million passengers a year, Kunming is also the hub for China Eastern Airlines and is emerging as an important air bridge connecting mainland China with Southeast Asia. In Viet Nam, the expansion and modernisation of international airports in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, as well as Vietnam Airlines’ SkyTeam global alliance membership and aggressive expansion strategy, are giving both airports, and the nation’s tourism assets, more global exposure. Having been a major contributor to the rise of international tourism in Cambodia and Lao, air transport is retelling the same success story in Myanmar.


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II. GMS AIR TRANSPORT STATISTICS The six GMS countries – Cambodia, China (Guangxi and Yunnan Provinces), Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam – represent a fast-growing international air transport market.


>100 airports collectively serve


million passengers a year (2015)


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airports have international connections

airports each serve


passengers per year



have their headquarters in the GMS

City and Kunming




fast-expanding LCC, Thai Lionair, with new flights to China PRC, Myanmar and Viet Nam



Sichuan Airlines


large regional carriers: Bangkok Airways and Sichuan Airlines

Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh Bangkok Airways


airports enjoy global “hub� status:


national carriers

are members of global alliances: Thai Airways, Vietnam Airlines, China Eastern Airlines

2 or MORE carriers headquartered in each GMS member nation


(the other three national carriers are Cambodia Angkor Air, Myanmar National Airlines, and Lao Airlines)

dominant low cost carriers: Thai AirAsia and Vietjet Air Mekong Trends Snapshots


Yunnan Province, South China


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Consistent with ASEAN regulations, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam already enjoy a liberal open skies environment, allowing any carrier to fly passengers between designated airports.

III. OPEN SKIES IN ASEAN AND GMS The ASEAN Open Skies Agreement is now fully implemented after the ratification of ASEAN Single Aviation Market (ASAM) by Indonesia and Lao PDR in April 2016. Consistent with ASEAN regulations, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam already enjoy a liberal open skies environment, allowing any carrier to fly passengers between designated airports.

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III-a. THE BENEFITS OF OPEN SKIES Open skies has already translated into new air routes. For example, in 2016 and early 2017, various airlines connected Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam with Sihanoukville, Cambodia; Bangkok, Thailand with Haiphong and Danang, Viet Nam; and Phuket, Thailand with Siem Reap, Cambodia. There are also plans to link Bangkok, Thailand to Phu Quoc, Viet Nam; Bangkok to Bagan, Myanmar; Khon Kaen, Thailand to Chinese cities; and Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Yangon, Myanmar. More airports are being connected to international destinations. Over the last three years, U-Tapao, Pattaya, Thailand; Nay Pyi Daw, Myanmar; Savannakhet, Laos; Sihanoukville, Cambodia; and Surat Thani, Thailand have all been linked to international destinations. Second- and third-tier destinations are benefiting from better air connectivity. The fastest growing airports in terms of airline seat capacity between July 2015 and July 2016 were U-Tapao, Pattaya, Thailand (up 214.2%); Phu Quoc, Viet Nam (66.4%); Haiphong, Viet Nam (60.4%); Nha Trang, Viet Nam (48.8%); and Luang Prabang, Lao PDR (38.9%). In the summer of 2017, Dong Noi in central Viet Nam will have its first international flight to Chiang Mai, Thailand, opening a new international entry point. Landlocked Laos has benefited most from open skies, with air seat capacity growing 28% between July 2015 and July 2016.

Facts and figures for selected GMS airlines

Thai Air Asia

51 Dest.

14.85 m Passengers

45 Planes

28 Dest.

40 Dest.

6.00 m* Passengers

36 Planes

27 Planes

21.27 m Passengers

535 Planes

Cambodia Angkor Air

95 Planes

1.11 m** Passengers

7 Planes

Vietnam Airlines

Lao Air

1.18 m** Passengers

30 Planes

20 Dest.

20 Dest.

232 Dest.

10.00 m Passengers

Thai Airways International

78 Dest.

China Eastern Airlines

75.14 m Passengers

Vietjet Air

77 Dest.

Bangkok Airways

5.10 m Passengers

Lucky Air (China)

52 Dest.

11 Planes

17.40 m Passengers

82 Planes

* Numbers from World Bank data on air transport. ** Number calculated from 2014 passengers figure of 5.67 million.

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Kunming Changshui Airport, China

III-b. CHINA-FOCUSED GROWTH China ratified an open skies agreement with ASEAN in 2010, opening up air links between second-tier cities. This has translated into better connections between China and thew other GMS countries. In July 2016, there were more than 70 air routes flown between China and Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam. Kunming International Airport, China’s seventh largest airport (GMS’ second largest airport after Bangkok) remains the main hub between Southeast Asia and China, serving 60% of all international seats between China and ASEAN destinations.


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Yangshou, China

Yunnan, China

Yunnan, China

III-c. THE LCC EFFECT Low-cost carriers (LCCs) are a major growth engine for air transport in the GMS and ASEAN. From 2007 to 2015, LCC capacity within ASEAN multiplied from 50 million seats to more than 200 million.

and Vietnam Airlines’ 457,321 seats/month from Ho Chi Minh City to ASEAN (Source: FlightmapsAnalytics 04/16). Vietnam Airlines‘ seat capacity did overtake Thai AirAsia by the end of 2016.

Until recently, the largest air carrier in terms of seat capacity from the GMS to the rest of ASEAN was was Thai AirAsia. As at April 2016, Thai AirAsia offered more than 670,000 seats per month from Bangkok to ASEAN destinations, compared to Thai Airways’ 510,051 seats/ month from Bangkok to ASEAN,

Thai AirAsia and Vietjet Air are the dominant LCCs in the GMS. There are other regional LCCs, which are based in Thailand (Nok Air, Thai Lion Air, Thai Vietjet); Myanmar (Golden Myanmar Airways); and Viet Nam (Jetstar Pacific). In China’s Yunnan and Guangxi provinces, LCCs with comprehensive networks include Lucky Air, which is based in Kunming, and Spring Airlines.

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Wat Rong Kun - Chiangrai, Thailand


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IV. THAI-VIETNAMESE EXPANSION Thailand is one of Southeast Asia’s most open markets for both domestic and international carriers. And it is the most mature aviation market in the GMS, with the biggest share of total passenger movements and capacity. Total intra-GMS air capacity reached 9.81 million seats in July 2016 and Thailand accounted for 41.5% of scheduled seats. However, this share had declined by more than three percentage points in 2016, mainly due to a jump in the total seat capacity of Vietnamese carriers, particularly the LCC Vietjet Air. Between July 2015 and July 2016, Viet Nam’s total number of available seats grew by 35%, with its share of intra-GMS capacity reaching 37.7%; a jump of 5.4 percentage points.


is one of Southeast Asia’s most open markets for both domestic and international carriers. And it is the most mature aviation market in the GMS, with the biggest share of total passenger movements and capacity.

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IV-a. VIETNAM AIRLINES’ AMBITIONS Vietnam Airlines is becoming stronger every day, stimulated by growing demand for domestic and international travel by Vietnam’s middle class, a boom in international arrivals, and unwavering support from Vietnam’s government. In 2015, Vietnam Airlines carried 17.4 million passengers (up by 11% over 2014), 6 million of whom flew on routes within Southeast Asia. The national carrier undertook 127,500 flights in 2015 (3.5% more than 2014) with a load factor of more than 80%. Premium-class travel increased by 40%.

Vietnam Airlines now presents serious competition for Thai Airways among the region’s full-service legacy carriers. In 2016, Vietnam Airlines carried 20.6 million passengers, becoming the GMS’ largest legacy carrier in terms of total passengers (excluding China’s major airlines). The SkyTeam alliance member operated 95 routes to 21 domestic and 29 international destinations with more than 360 daily flights. It operates 89 aircraft including new-generation Airbus A350s (14) and Boeing 787-Dreamliners (19). Vietnam Airlines has been keen to embrace the benefits of GMS’ open skies. It has diversified its portfolio, creating a joint venture with the Cambodian government to operate the Kingdom’s national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air (49% of shares) and entering into the low-cost space with a 70% share of Jetstar Pacific. 20

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Vietnam Airlines is also the first to develop an “Indochina Air Route”, which links the Vietnamese cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City via Siem Reap or Phnom Penh, Cambodia, or Vientiane, Laos. The carrier enjoys traffic rights on all segments. It pioneered similar routes in the early 2000s. Furthermore, new investors have stepped in with fresh capital following Vietnam Airlines’ transformation into a joint-stock company in April 2015. Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) acquired 8.8% of Vietnam Airlines shares worth about $108 million in May 2016. Code share flights are part of the agreement. The airline aims to achieve consolidated revenue exceeding VND77.8 trillion (US$3.5 billion) and consolidated profit before tax of VND2.3 trillion (US$104 million) in 2016.

Vietnam Airlines is becoming stronger every day, stimulated by growing demand for domestic and international travel by Viet Nam’s middle class, a boom in foreign arrivals, and unwavering support from Viet Nam’s government.

Ninh Binh Province, Viet Nam

In 2015, Vietnam Airlines carried 17.4 million passengers (up by 11% over 2014), 6 million of whom flew on routes within Southeast Asia. Mekong Trends Snapshot


IV-b. THAI AIRWAYS’ DUAL-BRANDING For the best part of a decade Thai Airways International struggled to trim legacy costs and rid itself of political interference. Now it seems the flag carrier has settled on a strategy after the Government of General Prayuth asked it to focus on ASEAN. Thai Airways’ regional expansion is being undertaken by Thai Smile, a hybrid brand born in 2012 that offers reduced on-board services. The dual-branding (along with the flagship THAI brand) is similar to the Singapore Airlines/Silk Air model.


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The full-service brand, THAI, currently serves 57 international destinations in 32 countries non-stop from Bangkok but only four domestic destinations. Thai Smile has taken over most of THAI’s domestic network and is expanding into neighbouring countries. Meanwhile, after four years of consolidation, THAI added long-haul services to Moscow and Tehran in 2016.

Through Thai Smile, Thai Airways is looking at boosting its presence in PR China and Southeast Asia. Thai Smile currently serves Changsha, Chongqing, Penang, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Yangon out of Bangkok. It will soon take over THAI’s flights to Vientiane. And the hybrid carrier recently launched new routes to Jaipur and Lucknow in India, both served by three weekly flights. However, Thai Smile has had to suspend, or transfer to THAI, flights to Ahmedabad, Colombo, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kuala Lumpur, Luang Prabang, Mandalay and Macau. Reasons include THAI’s larger aircraft and, in some cases, the inability to transfer THAI’s traffic rights to Thai Smile. By early 2017, Thai Smile had returned to Luang Prabang and Mandalay started serving Gaya, Lucknow and Varanasi in India as well as Zengzhou in China. New flights to Cebu, Kota Kinabalu and Chittagong are expected during summer 2017.

China is a priority for Thai Airways. Between them, THAI and Thai Smile fly to eight Chinese cities compared to 12 cities and 20 routes by low-cost rival Thai AirAsia. On the other hand, Thai Airways’ brands fly to 13 ASEAN cities (excluding Thai cities) compared to nine for the LCC. In 2016, Thai Airways transported 18.17 million passengers (down by 1.4% from 2015) with a load factor of 73.8% (up by 0.4 percentage points). Thai Airways’ fleet rationalisation strategy left it with 94 aircraft by the end of 2016, only one fewer than it had 2015. However, the airline started to receive the first of its 12 Airbus A350 XWB aircraft, with four firm orders and eight leases, to replace ageing A330s and B747-400s. The airline also retrofitted six B777-200ER, six B787-8, and three A330. The full integration of the THAI and Thai Smile booking engines should be finished in 2017.

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IV-c. LCCS TURN UP THE HEAT Competition is heating up between Thai AirAsia and the Vietnamese LCC VietJet. Thai AirAsia was, until recently, the GMS’ largest air carrier of any description until Vietnam Airlines overtook in 2016. During the summer of 2016, the Thai subsidiary of Malaysia-based AirAsia Group offered flights out of Bangkok’s Don Mueang International Airport to 28 GMS destinations (including within Thailand). Thai AirAsia is Thailand’s largest carrier on domestic routes with a market share close to 30%. Thai AirAsia is also pioneering international and domestic routes from Thai airports outside Bangkok, such as U-Tapao, Pattaya to destinations in north Thailand and Nanning, China; from Phuket to Siem Reap, Cambodia; and from Chiang Mai to seven domestic destinations. Thai AirAsia finished 2016 with 17.2 million passengers on a fleet of 51 A320s. It will take delivery of new A320s in instalments to grow its fleet to 57 aircraft in 2017, 61 in 2018, and 71 by 2020. The airline is targeting 19.5 million passengers in 2017. The Vietnamese LCC, VietJet, launched in 2011. By 2015 it had transported more 10 million passengers, up from 6 million in 2014. For the full-year 2016,

VietJet saw passengers traffic growing by 50% to 15 million travellers on its fleet of 42 Airbus A320s, a number already tracking close to Thai AirAsia. Until 2015, VietJet’s rapid growth had been based on serving pent-up demand for low-cost domestic flights. Now the airline is increasingly turning its eyes to GMS and ASEAN destinations. It already flies to 10 countries and could soon fly to Manila, following a more open aviation agreement between Viet Nam and the Philippines. It also recently launched new routes from Hanoi to Singapore and Danang to Seoul. And a joint venture in Thailand launched in the latter half of 2016 has enabled VietJet to offer flights within Thailand and between Thailand and Viet Nam. VietJet expects to utilise more than 100 aircraft across its Viet Nam and Thailand operations by 2022.

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Prosper with Purpose

June 6-9, 2017 Luang Prabang, Lao PDR


June 6-9, 2017 Luang Prabang, Lao PDR

What is the Mekong Tourism Forum (MTF)? The flagship annual gathering for the travel & tourism industry in the six-nation Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), MTF has provided a platform for the public and private sectors to discuss the development and promotion of travel to, from and within the Mekong Tourism region since 1996. The MTF is inclusive, interactive, and results-oriented, encouraging participants to work together to effectively and responsibly develop and market the Mekong Tourism region as a single destination. Themed “Prosper with Purpose”, MTF 2017 will focus on enhancing collaboration, understanding and knowledge-sharing between travel & tourism industry stakeholders on a wider range of topical issues than ever before.

Starring Luang Prabang, the “Host Venue” In 2017, MTF will be experiential. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed town of Luang Prabang will be the venue for MTF 2017's unique and innovative format. During the afternoons of June 7 & 8, after inspiring keynote speeches and panels in the morning, eight topical tracks of two sessions each will take place simultaneously at stunning venues in and around Luang Prabang: Marketing & sales, human capital development, sustainable investment, carrier capacity & connectivity, as well as adventure, culinary, cultural & responsible tourism. Each registered delegate may choose two tracks on a first-come first-served basis. Delegates will return home feeling that they attended a stimulating and informative industry forum, and experienced one of the Mekong Tourism region’s premier destinations. This beats sitting in a function room for three days!

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Premier Networking, Pre-MTF & Post-MTF Activities June 5 all day

Closed-door GMS Tourism Working Group & MTCO Board Meeting

June 6 all day

Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism (MIST) initiative will take place all day as shortlisted finalists pitch their business plans to a panel of venture capitalists and industry experts.


Learn how to work with professional travel bloggers to help build buzz for your destination or product during a Blogger Matchup session in the afternoon.


MTF 2017 Welcome Reception

June 7-8

Mekong Tourism Forum with inspiring keynotes in the morning and 16 interactive sessions in 8 parallel tracks in the afternoon. In the evening, Gala Dinner and Food Festival.

June 9

Range of half-day to multi-day post-MTF technical tours to experience one of Luang Prabang’s unique tourism offerings while learning from someone who manages or markets it.

FREE to Industry Professionals Limited Space Available! MTF 2017 is free to attend for qualified industry professionals. Registrations, to be strictly capped at 300, will be on a first-come first-served basis.

For news, updates and more information

Visit the MTF website at: Subscribe to Mekong Tourism’s e-news:

Mekong River


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V. IMPROVED INTRA-GMS CONNECTIVITY Intraregional connectivity has improved tremendously over the last decade thanks to more liberal bilateral and multilateral agreements.

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Nevertheless there are gaps in the intra-GMS network: There are no flights linking Lao PDR to Myanmar; Chiang Rai and Udon Thani in Thailand would likely support regional connections; and Myanmar’s Bagan and Mawlamyine would benefit from intra-regional flights.

Bagan, Myanmar

Open skies have long been adopted by Cambodia. Lacking a strong national carrier, Cambodia’s government saw the benefits of opening up to any airline wishing to serve the Kingdom. In the early 2000s, Thailand followed a partial and then a full open skies policy. Most foreign carriers now easily gain access to Thailand. Furthermore the government favours joint ventures between Thai and foreign partners, such as the recent one involving VietJet, to help build up a domestic network. China signed an open skies agreement with ASEAN back in 2010, while Myanmar and Lao PDR have increasingly opened up since 2012. In 2015, Viet Nam agreed on an open skies policy with Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. By the end of 2016, Viet Nam’s airspace will be further opened up to more routes to and from ASEAN destinations and source markets. Open skies are already resulting in the integration of second- and third-tier destinations into regional and international air networks. Since 2011, destinations such as Sihanoukville in Cambodia; Chiang Rai, Krabi, and Surat Thani in Thailand; Savannakhet in Lao PDR; Haiphong, Nha Trang and Phu Quoc in Viet Nam; and Nay Pyi Daw in Myanmar, have gained international air routes. In the near future, these cities are likely to be joined by destinations such as Dalat, Halong and Hue in Viet Nam; Khon Kaen and Ubon Ratchathani in Thailand; Bagan, Kentung and Mawlamyine (Moulmein) in Myanmar; and Battambang and Koh Kong in Cambodia.


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In Thailand, Chiang Mai will receive its first connection to Viet Nam (Doi Nong) in May 2017, while Bangkok could easily serve more regional flights to secondary destinations in Cambodia (Battambang or Sihanoukville); Myanmar (Bagan); and Viet Nam (Dalat, Hue, Nha Trang). In early 2017 Bangkok Airways announced a service to Phu Quoc, Viet Nam. In Viet Nam, neither Hanoi nor Ho Chi Minh City have flights to secondary airports in Thailand (Chiang Mai, Phuket or U-Tapao) or Myanmar (Mandalay). And restrictions on international traffic rights in Viet Nam limit the tourism and business opportunities for destinations such as Hue, Nha Trang. Phu Quoc, and Danang. However, international connectivity is improving: Phu Quoc will be linked to Bangkok and Shanghai in 2017, while Danang will see more flights to China, Thailand and Korea. There are also very few intraregional flights linking destinations in the north and south of the GMS. The biggest issues for second- and third-tier destinations remain infrastructure, visa-on-arrival offices, and customs, immigration, & quarantine (CIQ) facilities.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia


Putao Khamti




Baoshan Myitkyina Dehong Bhamo


Lincang Liuzhou


Kalaymyo Mandalay











Hai Phong Thanh Hoa

Luang Prabang

Chiang Mai




Dong Hoi Nakhon Phanom Sakon Nakhon

Udon Thani

Phitsanulok Khon Kaen Mawlamyaing


Roi Et


Siem Reap

Phnom Penh Sihanoukville Phu Quoc Ko Samui

Quy Nhon

Buon Ma Thuot Nha Trang





Bangkok BKK



Ubon Ratchathani

Dawei Bangkok DMK

Surat Thani

Wuzhou Beihai


Chiang Rai





Da Lat

Ho Chi Minh City Can Tho

Nakhon Si Thammarat Phuket

Trang Hat Yai

Air routes in the GMS Region Regional Flights Domestic Flights 1 million passengers per year

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Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Bangkok, Thailand

Kunming Changshui International Airport Yunnan Province, China

Tan Son Nhat International Airport Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam

Noi Bai International Airport Hanoi, Viet Nam


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Four global “hub� airports

VI. GMS AIRPORTS: ON THE FAST TRACK Seven airports in the GMS welcomed more than 10 million passengers each in 2015; 21 airports recorded over two million passengers each; and 35 airports recorded over a million passengers each. There are four intercontinental hubs in the region: Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Kunming. Other airports have a limited intercontinental network: Yangon, Phuket and Phnom Penh. Kunming is quickly expanding its intercontinental reach with new China Eastern flights to San Francisco and Sydney, while the local LCC Lucky Air plans routes to Los Angeles and Moscow in 2017. Airport expansion continues all across the GMS. In 2015 and 2016, new or expanded facilities were opened in Yangon, Myanmar; Phuket, U-Tapao, and Bangkok Don Mueang, Thailand; and Hanoi, Viet Nam. Plans are being approved for expansion phases II and III at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thailand; for a second terminal at Danang, Viet Nam; for Tan Son Nhat Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam; and for a domestic terminal at Wattay International Vientiane, Laos. Meanwhile, greenfield airports are to be developed at Long Than in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam, and at Hanthawaddy near Yangon, Myanmar.

*excludes domestic flights (Source: airports) 90 million Planned Passenger Capacity


95 45 million Current Passenger Capacity

65 million Planned Passenger Capacity

40 million Current Passenger Capacity

50 million Planned Passenger Capacity

22 million Current Passenger Capacity

50 million Planned Passenger Capacity

102 38

22 million Current Passenger Capacity


Runway 3700m x 60m 3rd runway planned


Airlines Destinations in Asia* International Destinations


GATES Runway 4000m x 45m


Runway 4500m x 60m





Destinations in Asia* International Destinations



GATES Runway 3800m x 45m

Ho Chi Minh

Runway 3048m x 45m





Destinations in Asia* International Destinations




Modernisation works are also planned for secondary airports such as Hat Yai and Chiang Rai in Thailand; Pakse, Luang Namtha and Pongsaly in Lao PDR; and Bagan in Myanmar. Recently the Cambodian government handed over control of some domestic airports to local authorities in the hope that these will see more activity.

Runway 4000m x 60m

Runway 3800m x 45m

Ha Noi

Runway 3800m x 45m





Destinations in Asia* International Destinations


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As they are both are rapidly reaching their maximum capacities of 30 million and 45 million annual passengers respectively, both Bangkok Don Mueang and Bangkok Suvarnabhumi have launched into expansion. Once complete the two airports will be able to handle well over 100 million passengers annually. At the end 2016, Bangkok Suvarnabhumi broke ground for the construction of a midfield terminal with a capacity of 15 million additional passengers. It is due to open in 2019. A second terminal is also being planned which will add another 30 million passengers to Suvarnabhumi’s capacity. It’s expected to open in 2021. A third runway will also be built. The former domestic terminal at Don Mueang is due to be renovated while the main terminals 1 and 2 could be expanded across both the tollway and highway where a railway station is being built. It could then handle an additional 15 million passengers. Expected launch of the new facilities is planned for 2021.

VI-a. BANGKOK: EXPANSION TO TAKE OFF Bangkok Metropolitan Area, Thailand

Lijiang old town, Yunnan China


Kunming, the capital of China’s Yunnan Province, is becoming a new intercontinental hub. For now the airport is a major transfer gateway between China and Southeast Asia. According to the Centre of Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), 60% of all available international seats out of Kunming are for ASEAN destinations. However, the launch of China Eastern flights to Dubai, Paris, Vancouver, San Francisco and Sydney, and plans for the LCC Lucky Air to fly to Moscow and Los Angeles, will see Kunming turn into an alternative global gateway to China and the northern GMS countries, particularly Myanmar. There is potential for Kunming to serve destinations and source markets in Western Europe and the Pacific Rim. Kunming could also accommodate more flight connections with Korea and Japan. The local government recognises the potential. In 2014 it set up a special fund of US$32 million to support new routes.


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Cambodia’s Phnom Penh Pochentong airport was recently expanded to handle 5 to 6 million passengers annually (compared to 3.5 million in 2016). The rise in tourism and the emergence of a middle class helped transform the airport into an attractive new destination and source market for airlines. Japan’s All Nippon Airways launched the first non-stop service from Tokyo to Phnom Penh in September 2016, while Emirates Airlines just announced a daily service from Dubai to Phnom Penh via Yangon, Myanmar to commence in spring 2017. Emirates will be the second Gulf carrier, after Qatar Airways, to serve the

Cambodia’s Phnom Penh Pochentong airport was recently expanded to handle 5 to 6 million passengers annually (compared to 3.5 million in 2016). The rise in tourism and the emergence of a middle class helped transform the airport into an attractive new destination and source market for airlines.

Bangkok, Thailand

VI-c. PHNOM PENH: THE NEW LONG HAUL DESTINATION Phnom Penh Metropolitan Area, Cambodia

Mekong Trends Snapshot


DESTINSPIRE is a boutique strategic marketing consultancy, with a focus on Asia, both from a source-market viewpoint as well as in-destination expertise. We assist organizations all over the world to understand and market to rapidly growing but complex markets and work with Asian destinations to inspire consumers by leveraging a global network of industry experts and cutting-edge technologies. DESTINSPIRE specializes in connecting data and storytelling to help make brands and destinations profitable, shareable and ultimately more valuable, driving incremental business to all stakeholders, regardless of the type and size of operators. A UNWTO Affiliate Member via its holding company Chameleon Strategies, our founders have been recognised as thought leaders globally, and have pioneered award-winning digital campaigns and initiatives in Asia, North America, and Europe. WE ARE PASSIONATE TO HELP DESTINATIONS INSPIRE VISITORS!


SNAPSHOT SUMMARY: BRIGHT FUTURE In summary, the future looks bright for air transport within the GMS due to a combination of contributing factors:


Mekong Trends Snapshots

A boom in domestic, short-, and medium-haul tourism continues, sustained by rising incomes in the GMS, ASEAN, China, and India.

ASEAN’s Open Skies and similar bilateral agreements continue to yield new airlines and innovative new routes. Viet Nam (short term) and Myanmar (medium-long term) will fuel high growth due to their large and increasingly wealthy domestic populations, their increased focus on destination marketing, and the streamlining of entrance formalities. New greenfield airports in Ho Chi Minh City and Yangon will compete with Bangkok as aviation hubs and add capacity to the region.

Thailand will continue to stimulate air transport demand throughout the region thanks to its established status as a major hub, aggressive airport expansion, liberal aviation policies, and continued double-digit tourism growth.

Kunming will become another intercontinental hub as new routes come online supported by the China and Yunnan governments. Demand is growing for second and third-tier destinations.

New airport infrastructure and capacity at all levels, from hubs to airstrips, will facilitate the distribution of traffic to and from secondary and tertiary destinations.

Mekong Trends Snapshot


April 16, 2016

February 7, 2017

March 12, 2017

March 23, 2017

Greater Mekong Sub-Region Gains More Flights in Summer 2016

Cambodia, Myanmar to Link Siem Reap, Bagan

Led by Airlines, Gulf Investors Eye Potential of Cambodia

Cambodia, Laos Sign MoU to Increase Air



May 17, 2016

Sapa Hill Station in Northern Vietnam To Get Its Own Airport

January 17, 2017

Infrastructure a Barrier to ASEAN Open Skies: Cambodia SSCA

March 22 2017

New Airline Takes off in Cambodia

September 27, 2016

May 6, 2016

New Flights Connect Siem Reap and Hanoi

The State of ASEAN Aviation in 2016 September 15, 2016

Will Vietnam redraw the world’s aviation market map?

April 25, 2016

ASEAN Open Skies yields big opportunities

March 29, 2016

January 18, 2017

More Air Links to Laos for Summer Season 2016

Thailand hopes to soar to the top of the aviation industry

September 26, 2016


March 30, 2017

November 6, 2016

Higher skills for a busy aviation sector

Aviation to Boost Thai Tourism: Minister

Mekong Trends Snapshots

Regional Air Connectivity Makes Krabi a Year-round Destination

April 8, 2017

Jetstar to Fly Melbourne, Sydney to Ho Chi Minh

MTCO 2015-2020 Marketing Strategy

MTCO 2015 Marketing Workshop Report

Mekong Tourism Corordination Office

MTCO 2016 Forum Report

MTCO 2016 Tourism Sector Strategy


Mekong Trends Snapshot


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CAPTURE memorable Mekong Moments on your camera or phone

TAG your pictures and clips with @mekongmoments and #[where you are]

WIN For a chance to WIN, visit our webpage to create your "My @mekongmoments" account

SHARE your #MekongMoments for the whole world to see

MekongMoments is a turn-key digital campaign platform that will allow any business in the GMS to develop their own campaign by encouraging its consumers, staff, and stakeholders to share their MekongMoments, which will be aggregated into to inspire people to research and book travel experiences in the GMS.



@mekongmoments is a visual consumer marketing campaign and travel inspiration platform that promotes the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) as a single tourism destination. A collaboration among travel and tourism stakeholders of all sizes, @mekongmoments builds social media marketing capacity in the Mekong region.

Imagine experiencing the most perfect moment of your holidays and wanting to share it with friends and the general public to help them enjoy experiences like this during their travels.

@mekongmoments is a public-private partnership, developed and executed by CEN International (CEN) for the Mekong Tourism Coordination Office (MTCO) in a partnership model where CEN takes the risk to solely invest in development and operations of the campaign and platform to be self-sustaining in the future on behalf of the six member countries of the GMS. The campaign is driven by the MTCO whose mandate is to emphasize the quality and diversity of responsible travel experiences in the region.

MekongMoments does just this! It allows moments (social media posts) to be connected to experiences; and experiences to collect all the moments associates with them and their destination. Users simply tag their experiences with @mekongmoments and #ExperienceName (or @MekongMoments @ExperienceName, depending on the social media channel) and their moments become part of an overall universe of experiences on the MekongMoments platform. Other consumers explore the platform, get inspired by shared moments with the possibility of filtering by destination or activity. Shared moments are connected to the respective experiences, driving business to the active operators.

Benefits Corporations


Companies, who participate at the campaign, have a number of benefits:

Users get the following benefits:

1. Ready-to-play social media campaign tool with support tools to market to their patrons and increase their social 2. Additional promotional channel to drive business 3. Additional channel to promote offers to a targeted audience (by proximity and interests) 4. A platform to promote targeted groups of experiences within the organisation (e.g. tours, all fine dining restaurants, or all hotels in one region, etc.) 5. A platform to reach and attract influencer marketers such as bloggers 6. Access to free or low-cost services and products, such as a build-in rights management tool. (coming soon) 7. Real-time offer/promotion creation, and targeting consumers via in-destination mobile app (coming soon) 8. Customisable MekongMoments video to promote the diversity of the experience.

1. Platform to share their experience with friends 2. Chances to win prizes (though campaigns of experiences) 3. Easy overview of experiences and offers in the region via shared moments 4. Better opportunity to plan their trips based on other users’ experiences 5. Access to direct booking channels 6. Personal MekongMoments video for travelers by uploading shared moments (photos and videos)

Disclaimer MEKONG TRENDS – AVIATION SNAPSHOT (EDITION 1, 2017) Preparation of this document was led by the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO), and published by CEN International under the Mekong Trends brand. Significant inputs were provided by members of the GMS Tourism Working Group, and tourism professionals in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) is a collaboration framework of the national tourism organiations if the six member governments of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), including: Ministry of Tourism, Cambodia; [People’s Republic of] China National Tourism Administration; Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Lao People’s Democratic Republic; Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, Myanmar; Ministry of Tourism and Sports, Thailand; Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Viet Nam. 1/2017 Mekong Trends - Aviation Snapshot Publisher & Sponsorships: Editorial Director: Editorial Advisors: Author: Editor: Design:

Mr. Gerrit Kruger - Managing Director, CEN International Mr. Jens Thraenhart - Executive Director, Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) Mr. Peter Wiesner, Bangkok Airways | Mr. Don Ross, TTR Weekly Mr. Luc Citrinot - Editor-in-Chief, Mr. David Gillbanks - Consultant, C&O, Bangkok, Thailand

The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office, and CEN International (publisher of Mekong Trends), do not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this report and accept no responsibility for any consequence of their use. By making any designation of or reference to a particular territory or geographic area, or by using the term “country” in this document, the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office does not intend to make any judgments as to the legal or other status of any territory or area. The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office encourages printing or copying information in this document for personal and noncommercial use with proper acknowledgment of Mekong Trends and the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office. Users are restricted from reselling, redistributing, or creating derivative works for commercial purposes without the express, written consent of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office and CEN International.

Mekong Trends: c/o CEN International – Floor 5, 281/19-23 Silom Soi 1, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand


Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office 3rd Floor, Department of Tourism Ministry of Tourism and Sports 154 Rama I Road, National Stadium Bangkok 10330, Thailand I Tel +66 (0) 2 612 4150-1 I I This document is available for free download from the the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office website ( and the Mekong Trends website (

Image Credits: From Cover: Michal Bednarek; page 2: Lukasz Kurbiel; page 4: Kjersti Joergensen; page 6-7: NicoElNino; page 8-9: Rat007; page 10: Raywoo; page 10: Alexey Y. Petrov; page 12-13: 06photo; page 14: Paper Cat, asharkyu; page 15: Songquan Deng; page 16: apiguide; page 19: Vytautas Kielaitis, Jimmy Tran; page 20-21: 06photo; page 22: MelodicinD; page 23: artistname; page 28-29: Chainarong Prasert; page 30: Jimmy Tran, Le Tu; page 32: Jorg Hackemann, TonyV3112, Quang nguyen vinh, Hanoi Photography; page 34: KoBoZaa, f11photo; page 35: AsiaTravel; page 35: puwa282; page 44-45: Sangkhom Hungkhunthod

©2017 Mekong Trends. All rights reserved. Published in 2017.


Mekong Trends Snapshots

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