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East Asia takes notice of Cambodia

East Asia takes notice of Cambodia

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Nicolas Masse, country manager for Dragonair (L), with the Phnom Penh team. Photograph supplied

Nicolas Masse, country manager for Dragonair (L), with the Phnom Penh team. Photograph supplied

One of the most well-informed personalities in the air transport business in Phnom Penh is Nicolas Masse, country manager for Dragonair, which operates daily flights from Phnom Penh to Hong Kong in the morning and evening using Airbus A320 and A330 aircraft.

Comparing the January through August periods between 2011 and 2012 for passengers on Phnom Penh routes, Masse said Hong Kong had increased 32 per cent, China routes were up 22 per cent and Japan routes up 23 per cent. He said both first and business class travel had increased by 34 per cent.

“Inbound tourism is very good, especially from the regions like Japan and China, which are the two main providers for us. We have also seen an increase in business travelers.”

In three weeks, Dragonair will increase the frequency from seven to 10 per week serving Phnom Penh. Masse said although the long haul traffic in the Dragonair-Cathay Pacific system was growing less rapidly than regional traffic, those long-haul passengers would contribute to the new Phnom Penh flights.

“That adds 920 seats per week, inbound and outbound. We think we will see an increase in mainland Chinese and Japanese visitors and passengers to and from North America, Europe and Australia,” he said.

Dragonair is offering a discount of more than 20 per cent for flights to Hong Kong, with a price of $309 for a return trip for tickets booked by October 15 for travel until March 31, 2013.

For air cargo shipments out of Phnom Penh, Masse said he was happy to see an increase in air exports, especially in garments and increasing interest from Japan.

“Japan traffic is growing very fast and don’t forget that electronics go by air. The Japanese are contacting us asking for a lot of service for the next year,” Masse said. “This is an indication of Cambodia’s development and shows that diversification is taking place.”

Dragonair is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific, the world’s largest international air cargo carrier, since 2011.  

Masse said 85 per cent of Cambodian air freight that goes through Hong Kong, continues to other destinations beyond Hong Kong.

“China is growing so fast, and Hong Kong is in the middle of that region,” Masse said. “If you need to export something from Southeast Asia, Hong Kong is still the good transshipment place.”

Dragonair has a 35-aircraft fleet, which together with Cathay Pacific’s 137 aircraft totals 172, with another 97 aircraft on order during the next five years including both Boeing and Airbus.

Dragonair’s relationship with Cathay Pacific is similar to Silk Air’s relationship with Singapore Airlines: both are smaller regional carriers that feed passengers into the larger parent airline.

Masse runs a staff or 12 people in Phnom Penh, seven at Dragonair’s office located next to the Hotel Intercontinental and five at Phnom Penh International Airport.

Masse came to Phnom Penh in January, 2011, and since then he has seen a growth of 7,800 additional passengers this year when compared to the January through August period of 2011.

“There is an increasing interest in Cambodia from around the region.”

Masse said Cambodia was rapidly becoming part of the global economy.

“The more Cambodia gets globalised, the more business there is for airlines. We play that role and we support the fact that Cambodia is more and more connected to the world. Half the world’s population is five hours flying time from Hong Kong and Cambodia is linked through Hong Kong to that population.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Alan Becker at [email protected]

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