Vietnam’s aviation sector is growing in tandem with its economic development as the geographical location definitely gives a benefit to the Southeast Asian country, said Majid Al Falasi, country manager of Emirates in Vietnam.
With both tourism and transportation demands increasing after the COVID-19 pandemic, the carrier expects Vietnam to remain an important market in Southeast Asia.
Responding to Tuoi Tre News via a video call, Falasi affirmed that Vietnam has a favorable position to connect with the world by both air and sea.
Please tell us about the upcoming plans that Emirates has for its operation in Vietnam after COVID-19.
I have been in Vietnam for almost three months, going on four months. I am delighted to be here, looking forward to the upcoming time in Vietnam. The country has a lot of things to offer. It has a lot of unique features.
There are lots of potential and a lot of things that the country has and can provide. At the moment for Emirates, we are looking at getting things back to pre-COVID levels. Then from there, we'll look forward to growing.
We see travel demand is increasing in Vietnam. We saw a huge volume of cargo during the pandemic, specifically from the Vietnamese market, which indicates that it is one of the critical markets in the region. We used to have more than 30 aircraft coming to Vietnam during that COVID-19 period.
The manufacturing industry, the bilateral agreements that are being signed, and the relationship between other countries are all things that help us as an airline. Many corporations in manufacturing industries are available in the country, which definitely supports us from a cargo perspective.
The cargo business is now more stabilized. It is more similar to pre-COVID levels.
In 2022 and the beginning of 2023, we achieved numbers higher even than pre-COVID levels [for passenger transport]. This is understandable because during the pandemic there were a lot of people who were just kept at home and could not travel. So they were very eager to travel, specifically from the year 2022 to the beginning of 2023. During this period, we saw numbers even higher than pre-COVID levels.
Some claim that Vietnam has the dilemma of 'good location, bad infrastructures,' which prevents the country from playing a more crucial part as a commercial air transport hub of Southeast Asia and the wider region. What are your thoughts?
Looking at the global tendency now, you see a lot of big companies opening up factories in Vietnam. Numerous foreign investments are coming into Vietnam. The geographical location definitely gives a plus to Vietnam.
I think Vietnam has the potential to grow. I believe Vietnam can be one of the region's biggest economies in the next few years.
I think the geographical location of Vietnam plays a good role in attracting investment as Vietnam has a long coastline and many ports. So this helps those manufacturers and investors when they do their costing. So the country is very well connected in terms of air and sea transport. That is why Vietnam has the potential and I do believe in the vision for the future.
I have recently read in the news that there is a US$1-billion project for a Lego factory, for example. It shows that this country has something special and unique to offer, which is driving the investment. Foreign investors are coming here to do the manufacturing.
I understand that Samsung is already present in Vietnam and they have a big manufacturing business there. When you see big players in the global market have a presence in Vietnam, it clearly shows the strength of this country.
I do not see it [the infrastructure] as a weakness. I think this is an opportunity to develop and it is a starting point for development.
We, on the other hand, help take these products globally. Whatever the product is, with our aircraft and our procedures, we ensure that the whole streamline is safe. We ensure that you will receive your products exactly as we receive them. We assure you that the process Emirates follows maintains the highest standard in terms of the cargo business.
So challenges are there, and opportunities are there, but the situation and the potential of the country are super high, which is shown by foreign investors' investments in this country.
Speaking of new investments, the Vietnamese government has set its ambition in the semiconductor industry. So how can foreign airlines like Emirates contribute to this goal?
Building the supply chain for these semiconductors is a complex task. We integrate this consideration into all our standards and measures while undertaking the process.
Emirates contributes to Vietnam's ambition and the global semiconductor supply chain through an extensive global network, reliable and flexible cargo services, and temperature-controlled solutions.
These are all things that Emirates already has. Security and safety measures are also something that is always on our top list and priority. Customer experience and expectations are always our highest priority. Collaboration with the local stakeholders is also taken into consideration.
The strength of the airline lies in its pivotal role as a valuable partner in supporting Vietnamese endeavors to elevate its position in the semiconductor industry and on a global stage.
What is Emirates' business development orientation and vision in Vietnam in the next five to 10 years?
Our biggest goal at the moment is to support the growing demand for air travel to and from Vietnam and contribute to the country's GDP by creating jobs for Vietnamese talent across various business units and in different roles. We have different setups that we manage to support them.
At Emirates, there are now more than 160 Vietnamese employees in varied business units including cabin crew, Emirates outstations, customer services, and other roles.
Is Vietnam a regional aviation center?
Falasi said Vietnam has the potential to become a new regional aviation center as novel plans are being implemented.
“The government's vision for airport development, as articulated in an announcement, aligns with a forward-looking perspective for the year 2050. The ambitious plan entails the construction of 30-33 new airports, signaling a significant stride toward bolstering the country's connectivity and overall infrastructure,” he explained.
"This will give a push overall. Now the vision clearly says that they want 97 percent of the people to be 100 kilometers away from any of the airports, which helps people and businesses stay connected.
“Air transport locally will be easier. Being in Ho Chi Minh City, I also saw the news about the new Long Thanh International Airport. The government's commitment to this project not only indicates a dedication to modernizing infrastructure but also opens up promising opportunities for international airlines.
“So we believe things and actions are already being taken. It is just a matter of time for them to be implemented. Yes, of course, that's precious!”