Thomas Bellamy is Manager Nepal for Hong Kong Dragon Airlines. Bellamy has already worked for the Cathay Pacific Group in various roles in Hong Kong and Jakarta. The energetic, creative and responsive airline manager sees a bright future of the tourism industry in Nepal.
He says Nepal’s strength is its diversity: rainforests, culture, religion, towering mountains, wildlife, outdoor activities. He says that demand for Nepal will increase if interest in the country continues to be generated. Excerpts of an interview with Ballav Dahal of The Rising Nepal are as follows:
Tell us about Dragonair’s current services in Nepal.
Dragonair (voted World’s Best Regional Airline 2011 by Skytrax) currently has a daily flight between Hong Kong and Kathmandu. We take passengers and cargo to Hong Kong in our A330 aircraft and then often on to other destinations through our excellent connections from Hong Kong. We have strong schedules to Hong Kong, China, Australia, Japan, the US, and many more destinations. For more details on Dragonair’s schedules please visit www.dragonair.com.
How is the airline’s air-seat occupancy on HK-KTM-HK sector?
Our loads are good all year round, but peak occupancy typically comes in October and November and then again in March and April.
What is Nepal’s potentiality as a destination for Dragonair?
We take a lot of passengers from all over the world on Dragonair or our sister airline Cathay Pacific and fly them via Hong Kong and then onto other destinations in our network. It is this traffic that drives the daily flight from September to April. We see a large number of tourists from the US, Japan, and China in particular, but across the world we do our best to promote interest in the destinations we fly to and Nepal is no exception. Nepal obviously has huge potential as a tourist destination with visitors coming here for all sorts of reasons: cultural, religious, sporting, natural beauty, wildlife, and the list goes on...
How is the airline promoting Nepal through its wider network?
The Cathay Pacific Group’s overarching strategy is to connect passengers through our excellent home hub– Hong Kong. Our network transports passengers to over 140 destinations world-wide and our sales offices around the network can reach out to a wide customer base. All across our network, our sales teams promote all destinations they see demand for. Where our sales teams world-wide see demand for Nepal, they work to promote it. We of course (as the Nepal team) do all we can to encourage sales teams in other countries to work to promote Nepal in their communities. At the moment, agents are selling a lot of trekking packages – especially in Japan and China.
What are the airline’s plans for the days ahead?
Dragonair is focussed on Asia, and in particular greater China. To ensure we can better serve our passengers, we are planning to expand our fleet (6 more aircraft are to be delivered in 2012 – four Airbus 320s and three Airbus 330s). We are going to resume some services, and launch new destinations. Dragonair has 32 passenger aircraft currently and Cathay Pacific has 108. Between the two airlines, we take passengers to over 140 destinations worldwide; added to that we move a lot of airfreight across the world, both in our freighter aircraft and in the belly of our passenger aircraft.
We are also looking to continue to improve our in-flight offering by continuing to focus on our innovative in-flight meals, our customer centric and contemporary in-flight sales products, and our in-flight entertainment, seats, and provisions for connectivity in-flight. We have also started work on a new uniform for our cabin crew and ground staff.
An affiliate member of oneworld, Dragonair is a Hong Kong-based airline operating a fleet of 32 passenger aircraft and serving 33 regional destinations, including 17 cities in Mainland China. The airline is providing seamless connectivity for passengers to more than 160 cities around the globe.
How could Nepal’s travel trade sector work together with the airline for destination promotion?
The key here is really that for now Nepal is primarily an inbound market. The travel trade knows this, and there are a number of organisations that are doing their best to promote Nepal overseas, and it is really about more of the same. Demand for Nepal will increase if interest in Nepal continues to be generated.
As a tourist destination, what are the strengths of Nepal?
Nepal’s strength is its diversity: rainforests, culture, religion, towering mountains, wildlife, outdoor activities– there is a huge range of activities to enjoy here. That said almost everyone you meet in Kathmandu airport who is not a Nepalese passport holder is off to Pokhara or somewhere else with a view to get up in the hills and hike and enjoy the spectacular scenery!
What are your suggestions for the Government of Nepal to give a boost to the country’s tourism sector?
It is all about making sure Nepal is well placed to welcome all the many people who want to visit here. The Nepali people are so warm and welcoming. So, if we continue to see the infrastructural improvements that are going on currently, as well as sustained peace, hopefully the rest will all fall into place.