Global travel will return strongly despite omicron

International travel is likely to recover soon, despite progress being slowed by the omicron variant, according to AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes.

“I think we’re at the beginning of the end,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Monday, noting that recovery has already begun in earnest.

“The good thing is that this time last year we had no planes flying. Now we have a large part of our fleet flying domestic Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia,”[ads1]; he said, adding that demand has been “very, very robust. “

International travel will return to pre-Covid levels about six months after the borders begin to reopen, he predicted, saying he hopes the borders will reopen in March.

Following a string of quarantine-free travel announcements in Asia last year, several countries, including Thailand and India, reintroduced restrictions on certain arrivals, as omicron increased the number of cases.

Fernandes also acknowledged that China continues to be a “big issue” when it comes to reopening, given that the country is still pursuing its zero-Covid policy.

AirAsia’s tour notification service

Separately, Fernandes said that the company’s touring business has done “incredibly well” and “far exceeded” expectations since its launch in August 2021.

He said that AirAsia’s strategy is “exactly the same” as the one it used when the company entered the low-cost airline market years ago – high efficiency that results in lower prices for consumers.

As a late participant, AirAsia Ride was able to observe which models were successful, and did not need to spend a lot of money on research, development or technology, he said. It also acquired part of the Indonesian startup Gojek’s Thailand business.

“The market is still very, very under penetrated,” Fernandes said. “It’s a big, huge upside.”

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