Having more low-cost carriers would attract tourists and benefit aviation industry

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 May, 2014, 3:38am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 May, 2014, 3:38am

In his article ("Budget break", May 13) Edward Lau, CEO of Jetstar Hong Kong, makes several valid points.

Aviation is one of the city's four economic pillars. The connectivity offered by Hong Kong International Airport to the rest of the world has enabled Hong Kong to become Asia's world city.

We have been in a comfortable position as a leader in our region for a long time. However, we are now looking over our shoulder as other cities across Asia threaten to overshadow us.

Tourism is one area where we have the opportunity to make up ground. Through setting ambitious tourism goals, we are moving in the right direction.

But as Mr Lau says, to attract business from the growing travel markets of Southeast Asia, Japan and Korea (where tourists who will stay and spend in Hong Kong come from) we need to promote this city as an attractive tourist destination.

Lack of competition in our aviation industry has made Hong Kong an expensive place to visit. We need to provide affordable means of travel to bring tourists to our region.

Having more low-cost carriers based here would undoubtedly enhance flight frequency and broaden the market share of local air services.

This would allow Hong Kong to become a more affordable holiday destination. In many countries, efficient low-cost- carrier business models have led to air fares that are up to 50 per cent cheaper than those of full-service carriers.

Permitting more Hong Kong-based low-cost carriers won't necessarily take business away from existing carriers. As evidence around the world shows, the low-cost airlines promote market growth for all carriers on shared routes. They will stimulate more demand and a broad mix of airlines that cater for the needs of all market segments.

The economic contribution from these carriers goes further than the abundance of tourists who arrive with open wallets, having saved on airfares.

They create jobs and bring economic benefits to the whole tourism sector. In addition, the spin-off economic benefits obtained from locally based low-cost carriers will boost diversity in our economy, and act as economic growth poles of our society.

Supporting the growth of our tourism industry is fundamental and vital to Hong Kong's ability to retain its regional standing.

I believe that more home-based low-cost carriers should be a consideration in our growth strategy.

Dr Peter Wong, department of logistics and maritime studies, Hong Kong Polytechnic University