AirAsia group CEO Tony Fernandes (pictured) has described China to be a "massive potential" for the aviation industry in the coming years, because only 120 million (8.7%) of Chinese hold passports.
In his latest LinkedIn post, Fernandes said he "strongly [believes]" in tourism and trade being a complementary unit. "One drives the development of the other and local economies benefit from the tourism multiplier effect that consist of job creations, new businesses and so much more," he explained.
Currently, the airline's flights link 12 AirAsia hubs to 17 cities in China including Beijing, Chengdu and Guangzhou. While the road to success has not been easy, Fernandes said it managed to build a presence in a market that is "largely under-served and known for its culture of protectionism at that point of time" through marketing, branding and offering connectivity where there is none.
"My dream is to consistently explore new areas of growth particularly in secondary and tertiary cities while facilitating trade in these routes less travelled by providing connection," he said.
"The stars are aligning [in China] with passport application procedures being simplified, along with the intensified efforts towards further internationalisation in various industries," Fernandes added.
According to him, Chinese and Indian travellers make up the "largest portion" of AirAsia's Fly-Thru service. While there was a lack of connection between smaller cities in China and India, its fly-thru network has boosted connectivity in both markets, Fernandes said.
"Connectivity is truly the secret recipe for unimpeded trade for we are not only moving people, we are also bringing businesses and products to new markets made possible due to our extensive network," he said. Fernandes added that AirAsia's fly-thru connectivity will be further enhanced by its digital initiatives such as RedBox Logistics.
Recently, AirAsia's president of China, Kathleen Tan, said she is stepping down from her role and has decided to "take a long break". She was responsible for providing leadership and strategic direction to the airline.
Meanwhile, AirAsia is also encouraging travellers to explore lesser known islands and beaches around Southeast Asia. Travel360.com, the digital expansion of AirAsia’s inflight magazine travel360, teamed up with Malaysian film company We are KIX in August to launch "VitaminSEA". The series showcases six amazing yet relatively unknown beach destinations in Southeast Asia served by AirAsia, with videos on Thailand’s Pattaya, Cambodia’s Sihanoukville and Vietnam’s Nha Trang already launched.