Q: ANA started direct flights to Cambodia in September last year. Could you tell me about the progress of your business performance so far?
Mr Norimasa: Overall, we had good results this year. From September till December last year, we did not good results as we expected. But from January to April this year, our business performance is really good so the occupancy ratio of our aircraft reached more than 70 percent, so that number is quite good – much better than we expected. I could say that so far this year we got very successful with our operation to Cambodia.
Q: Cambodia has more than 20 airlines operating and serving a lot of destinations and even a few already operating to Japan. As you are the newcomer to Cambodia, how do you feel about the competition?
Mr Norimasa: Well, actually, it is a kind of advantage for us since ANA commenced here. We are the only airline to have direct flights to Tokyo. Of course, as you said, we also have several airlines to the destination, but they don’t have direct flights – they need to stop or transit somewhere from Cambodia to Japan. So ANA is the only airline to fly direct. Another advantage for us is the aircraft, which is quite big. The new aircraft can accommodate some 240 passengers and it is a new aircraft. At the same time, we get a very positive view from the passengers. And now we fly one every day.
Q: Now you only go directly to Phnom Penh International Airport. Do you have any plans to start your direct flights to Siem Reap, the main tourism site in Cambodia?
Mr Norimasa: At this stage, we don’t have any plans to increase the flights including to other destinations in Cambodia. But as you said, we see the big potentiality of this market. Now we fly from Tokyo’s Narita Airport which is a bit far from downtown Tokyo, but in Japan we have another airport called Hanida Airport located in the middle of Tokyo. So we wish to have a second flight from Hanida Airport as now we don’t have another agreement between Japan-Cambodia on direct flights from here to Hanida Airport. But in the future we hope that we will have a second flight to Hanida Airport.
We see the potential between Siem Reap and Japan as Siem Reap is famous for the world heritage sites and we have a lot of Japanese visit there every year. But the problem is Siem Reap has many tourist demands, but we don’t have much business demand. So we think our airline group has several subsidiaries and maybe they can fly to Siem Reap as low-cost carriers under the ANA Group.
Q: In recent months, the Malaysia-based AirAsia started direct flights from Malaysia to Sihanoukville province. Will you consider starting flights there?
Mr Norimasa: I think it will still take time. Sihanoukville has tourism and businesses because there is a port there. It has big potential. But we still need time to think about it.
As you may be aware, in 2020 Japan hosts the Olympic Games, so our country will try to get more tourists to enjoy the event. So we are looking to have more Cambodians fly to Japan.
Q: What are the changing trends in the flow of tourists and investment from Japan to Cambodia? And from Cambodia to Japan?
Mr Norimasa: Why ANA decided to have direct flights to Phnom Penh was because we see that business demand will increase in the future. To have direct flights between the capitals of the two countries will stimulate business and we already experienced that in other countries. We started direct flights from Tokyo to Myanmar three years ago and at that time the demand was not so big. But once we started the direct flights, the flight traffic between the two countries increased very rapidly – that’s kind of win-win strategy as we stimulated the relationship between both countries so we get the profit and I hope it will be the same here. Although the current demand is not enough, with direct flights with big aircraft we believe that the future potential here will be very high.
Q: Last month Prime Minister Hun Sen made an official visit to Japan. Japan’s Prime Minister made a surprise birthday party him. What do you think about relations between the two countries? Will this spur our economic relations?
Mr Norimasa: It was really nice. And I do believe that Prime Minister Hun Sen likes Japan very much. He visits almost every year and he is also a very good friend with my Prime Minister Mr Abe. Actually, one of the reasons we fly directly to Phnom Penh is because the prime ministers encourages us to fly directly. Even our CEO visited Phnom Penh and he met personally with Prime Minister Hun Sen, so that is really good.
Q: Does your airline have any promotional tourism packages with low costs to attract more Cambodians to visit your country?
Mr Norimasa: Sure. We see a lot of potential since we have been operating from September last year and until now the number of Cambodian tourists is increasing very rapidly, according to the Japanese embassy here. The visa applications are nearly double compared with last year, especially during Khmer New Year.
Q: What are your expansion plans in the years to come?
Mr Norimasa: We will try to make our Phnom Penh-Narita route profitable as we hope that we will get profitable by 2019 before the Olympic Games. And we do also hope that the number of Cambodians going to Japan will increase. So when there is more demand, there will be another flight from Tokyo to Hanida and also we could have direct flights from Siem Reap. We expect that more business passengers will come and I think now they are waiting to see growth in the country. I believe once you show the potential, more investors will come.