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AirAsia Aims to Corner 30% of Myanmar Tourists as Country Opens

June 6 (Bloomberg) -- AirAsia Bhd., the region’s biggest budget airline, plans to carry as much as 30 percent of tourists visiting Myanmar as the southeast Asian economy opens up for foreign investment and leisure travel.

The carrier is targeting to move 500,000 passengers this year to the country, Tony Fernandes, AirAsia Group’s Chief Executive Officer, said in an interview in Naypyidaw, Myanmar. The southeast Asian nation may have about 3 million tourists this year, he said.

“We want to be 20 percent to 30 percent of that pie,” Fernandes said in an interview with Haslinda Amin.

Myanmar President Thein Sein has allowed more political freedom and loosened economic controls since coming to power two years ago, prompting the U.S. and other nations to ease sanctions and attracting companies such as Coca-Cola Co. and Ford Motor Co. to invest. The opening up will help add to growth at Sepang, Malaysia-based AirAsia, which has ordered more than 300 aircraft with Airbus SAS as economic growth in the region spurs travel.

AirAsia has three daily flights connecting Bangkok with Yangon, and one daily service between the Thailand capital and Mandalay. The airline yesterday said it will fly from Bangkok to Naypyidaw daily starting in October.

Fernandes said further plane orders depend on the company’s board.

“Certainly we can,” Fernandes said. “Whether we can do or not will have to wait and see and the board will have to look at it. The demand is there and we have to make sure that the demand is kept.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Kyunghee Park in Singapore at kpark3@bloomberg.net; Haslinda Amin in Singapore at hamin1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anand Krishnamoorthy at anandk@bloomberg.net

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