Name : Varong Israsena Na Ayudhya
Position : Vice President of Bangkok Airways
When was your first visit to Myanmar and what was your impression back then?
It was in 2003 when I first visited Yangon, a year before we started flying Bangkok – Yangon flight. My first impression was how the country has well conserved all the rich cultures and traditions of Myanmar. What I found most fascinating about Myanmar is a very strong sense of deep-rooted cultures, friendly people, not to mention stunning natural landscape as well as iconic golden Shwedagon. Until now, I still find that there are many unseen destinations in Myanmar for me to visit and I will definitely find sometimes to visit Myanmar again in the future.
What do you think of Myanmar now?
I’ve seen great opportunity and development over the years. Myanmar has grown tremendously in terms of economy and businesses. The country has great potential in many aspects including foreign investments, agriculture as well as tourism. Bangkok Airways has first flew to Yangon from Bangkok in 2004 and we have been seeing great potential in tourism as there are such travel demands from Thai and European tourists alike. Interests in travel of global tourists are not only for Yangon, there are certain demands for big city like Mandalay or government center like Nay Pyi Taw or ancient city like Bagan. We started flying to connect Thailand and Myanmar for 14 years and to date we connect Bangkok-Yangon, Bangkok-Mandalay, Bangkok-Nay Pyi Taw, Yangon-Chiang Mai and Mandalay-Chiang Mai. This is how far we have grown over 14 years of connecting Thailand and Myanmar.
How did you end up in current position at Bangkok Airways?
I started working with Bangkok Airways 20 years ago as Sales Executive. With a strong passion in aviation industry as well as friendly yet professional atmosphere at Bangkok Airways, it makes me feel so connected with the company. I worked my way up from junior position with the company taking care of Sales in Koh Samui, Luang Prabang and later in Yangon. I also later had the opportunity to station in London and Frankfurt early in my career as one among the pioneer group to set up sales offices in Europe. Currently, I am a Vice President for Sales leading the team for both Thailand and international point of sales. With 20 years with the company, I can say that Bangkok Airways has a great working culture where consider everyone rather as friends and family.
What are the differences between customers in Myanmar and other countries?
Bangkok Airways starts flight operation to Myanmar since 2004, with 14 years of experience; we could say that Bangkok Airways’ boutique service catches interests of customers in Myanmar. They would not only look at ticket price but rather at value of what they would get. They would compare services of different airlines, values, flight frequency and all other services that are included in the ticket fare with no hidden fee. Services of our staff from ticketing, throughout their journey until their final destination and also our professional handling of any unexpected flight irregularities are some attributes that customers in Myanmar would choose to fly with Bangkok Airways. Unlike some other markets where they focus on price without looking at the value of the services they would receive with no additional fee.
What is your target market segment?
We are targeting at customers who are seeking great value in their travel. Bangkok Airways is a full-service carrier without any hidden fees. In-flight meals, luggage of 20 kg, seat selections and other services are all inclusive in ticket fare.
We are looking at leisure travelers who seek exotic and cultural destinations in Thailand and Asia as well as business and MICE travelers. Why should Myanmar customers choose Bangkok Airways?
Branded as “Asia’s Boutique Airline”, Bangkok Airways is a full-service carrier where we focuses on personal touch service from the moment they make reservation until they land at their final destination; we are determined to make seamless experience for all our customers. Our unique destinations are also one of the aspects customers are choosing to fly with us. Bangkok Airways flies travelers from around the world to more than twenty five exquisite destinations across Thailand and Asia. To name a few; Samui, Phuket, Trat (Koh Chang), Phu Quoc, Maldives are amongst the most popular beach selections; whilst Sukhothai, Yangon, Mandalay, Luang Prabang, Siem Reap (Angkor), are of the world heritage personalities, each of which possesses her unique flair.
How do you typically differentiate your services with other airlines following the same route?
The word “boutique” normally refers to a small specialized business; often catering to niche markets. Applying this philosophy, Bangkok Airways’ positioning as a “boutique airline” aims to offer the best personalized service to passengers and to develop more exotic and cultural destinations. In order to secure a solid foothold in the ever changing air industry, the boutique campaign emphasizes and expands upon Bangkok Airways’ position as a legacy carrier known for pioneering private airline flights in the Kingdom of Thailand. By offering full service in all categories such as boutique lounges (at the airports where we are allowed to operate our own lounges), boutique airports in Koh Samui, Sukhothai and Trat, appetizing menus, and friendly exclusive service to its passengers, this clearly places Bangkok Airways in a category of its own that differentiates it from other competing carriers. Its longterm stance is to be the best regional airline in Asia by providing exclusive services to all passengers.
How do you train local staff?
Our HR policy provides trainings to our local staff annually. We make sure that all local staff have the opportunity to update industry insights and develop their professional and personal skills on a regular basis. We have certified instructors and trainers from fellow colleagues within the company as well as from famous institutions from Thailand and abroad. Sometimes we send our instructor from Bangkok Airways’ headquarter to train local staff in Myanmar for some specific topics. We also provide opportunity to Myanmar local staff to travel to destinations in our route network to learn first-hand about our products and services as well as learn differences of cultures and traditions of each destination, so they could use their direct experience and share with our customers.
How do you usually promote Bangkok Airways among target customers?
We have different promotional channels, for example, social media like Facebook, travel agents and also our partners in tourism sectors. These are effective channels that reach out to the right target audience. We also run series of marketing activities at different locations in Myanmar.
What type of CSR activities do you do for every year in Myanmar?
For Myanmar, we are open to work with any social enterprise to come up with joint CSR project in Myanmar. For example, last year, Bangkok Airways sponsored a set of air tickets to bring a team of opticians from “Lanna Ta Dee”, an organization that pools a group of volunteer opticians and optometrists, to provide optical care, eyesight testing and offer eyeglasses to the local people in Mandalay, Myanmar during 6 – 8 July 2017. Bangkok Airways has a dedicated CSR team based in our Head Office in Bangkok and is willing to put into consideration to take part for CSR project if the opportunity arises.
What is your opinion on Myanmar aviation sector?
There is such a great potential in aviation sector in Myanmar especially its airports. At present, there are only 3 international airports in the country and more than 10 domestic airports will be developed to international airports to be able to respond to an ever expanding aviation and tourism industries in Myanmar. More importantly, there is an increasing number of Myanmar qualified workforce in Aviation as currently we also have a pilot from Myanmar working with us. This proves that Myanmar aviation sector is ready to respond to future growth in this sector.
What are your future expansion plans?
- The study is being carried out to start direct service between Yangon and Phuket. We aim to start in November 2018. Once everything is confirmed, I will share more information again.
- Added flight frequency on Mandalay – Bangkok service from 7 to 11 flights weekly
- In terms of fleet, all ATR72-500 will be replaced with brand new ATR72- 600. All deliveries will be complete in early 2019.
MI: From a business standpoint, what are the biggest challenges facing Bangkok Airways in next 1-3 years?
- Intense competition in Aviation Industry
- Fuel Cost