Influence of Chinese tourists increasingly seen in airlines

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CEBU PACIFIC is one of ATR’s clients in the Philippines.

AIRLINES are factoring in the changing traveling habits of Chinese tourists, who are starting to dominate the global tourism market, when they purchase new aircraft

Laurent Janitzar, sales director of turboprop manufacturer ATR, said a growing number of Chinese travelers are ditching group tours and heading to new, less-known destinations.

“The Southeast Asia market is a big Chinese tourist market. The Chinese tourism market is changing slightly. It used to be tour groups going together, people going everywhere. That was typical. You had to bring them from China, bring them to the hub, then to the major destination. The younger generation… are starting to be able to want to go to off-the-beaten-tracks areas,” he said during a media briefing in Singapore late last month.

Mr. Janitzar said the trend is already being seen in Thailand and Indonesia.

“The airlines are going to have to respond to that. And the turboprop is going to be the aircraft that will make sense to send these people who want to look for remote areas.”

In a separate interview with BusinessWorld, Mr. Janitzar said its 50-seater aircraft — the ATR 42 — is ideal for such a market, because these tourists usually travel in sizes of 30 to 40.

“If you take an ATR 72 (an approximately 70-seater aircraft) today, you’re going to have a third of the aircraft full. That will not make sense. Now it’s up to the airline to decide whether there’s a potential for having more passengers once there is an airline connection or not,” he said.

He noted airlines can use small aircraft to test new routes with thin traffic.

Mr. Janitzar said ATR can take advantage of this trend, as it is the only aircraft manufacturer producing small capacity planes.

“All the other (original equipment manufacturers) have discontinued manufacturing 50-seater, because there was a trend in the last few years for more seats, bigger aircraft, and ATR kept on flying and producing the ATR 42. We find ourselves in a very sweet spot now, where everybody’s starting to go back to this kind platform, and we have the aircraft available,” he said.

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