Up-and-coming Taiwanese airline executive Vincent M. Lin oozes confidence which exceeds his 40 years of age.
TransAsia chairman Vincent M. Lin.
His business-savvy approach and natural talent propelled him three years ago to the top post of chairman of TransAsia Airways. He was recently in Bangkok to launch the airline's inaugural flight between Bangkok and Taipei.
TransAsia Airways, which reported approximately 950 million baht in revenue last year, was founded in 1951. It began as the first privately-owned airline company in Taiwan for domestic routes before expanding to 18 international destinations, which included a string of countries such as Japan, Korea and China.
Lin spoke favourably about Thailand, stating confidently his strong faith in Thailand's tourism industry, and the ensuing success of the inaugural flight between both countries.
Based on Taiwan's Tourism Bureau report (2007-2012), Taiwanese tourists made 1.98 million visits to the "Land of Smiles". This averages about 330,000 visits per year, which was twice the number of visits per year they made to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. On the other hand, on average, 100,000 Thais visited Taiwan each year.
According to the Thailand's Tourism and Sports Ministry, the number of Taiwanese tourists to this country during the first two months of 2013 increased by 37.54% from last year, reaching 73,424 visitors. The number is still increasing.
Lin said this information gives Trans-Asia Airways much reason for optimism and confidence in the potential for tourism growth between the two countries.
He added the company aims to fly extensively to Asian countries after having served the North Asia route. It will also opt for a more aggressive approach towards expanding their services in Southeast Asia.
"We will work hard to make sure that the passengers will be familiar with the brand TransAsia pretty soon," he said.
Why did you select Bangkok as your first destination this year?
TransAsia is starting to expand into Southeast Asia after our services in Northeast Asia.
Two-and-a-half years ago we had an opportunity to begin expanding our international routes. So far we've done Japan, Vietnam, Singapore and Bangkok. It's part of our five-year plan, and Thailand is going to be a very important destination.
Why did you decide to start this new route with daily flights?
We believe that in order to be competitive in this market we need to open up with daily flights in order to provide the best type of service to customers.
We have the capacity to do this and it is our strategy. We have full confidence in our product.
How do you view Thailand's tourism and travel industry?
We are very positive about Thailand tourism. As far as we know, during the past two or three years, there has been a great return of visitors to Thailand _ even after the difficult situations [political unrest and the big floods].
We always believed that the Thai market would eventually rebound for the better. Thailand has always been a great destination for the Taiwanese.
Within this year, how many routes do you think you will open in Thailand?
We've started with Bangkok. I believe we will have three flights to Chiang Mai a week by about July, hopefully.
Maybe we should fly to Phuket _ we will keep this option open.
Do you have any plans to expand your business to Myanmar?
Myanmar is a destination that we have studied. We do have rights to fly chartered base flights here, but we haven't executed this plan yet.
Yes, it is under consideration for how and when.
What target do you hope to have reached when your five-year business plan is over?
Our business grows approximately 15-20% a year. For a service airline, this is actually a pretty big growth. We will continue the growth for the next couple of years _ we have a lot of places we'd like to go. We will continue building the team [and] stay regional at least for the next couple of years.
Do you have a policy against carbon emission?
In Taiwan, the way we have selected our jets and the future plan of our fleets are all for social responsibility and carbon-conscious reasons. So what we have in line are the new Airbus 320 and 321. We picked the ones that have less carbon emissions. The configuration of the planes and overall design, and even the painting, is simple and mostly eco-conscious.
And yes, the company itself is very conscious of our role. We try to minimise the effects that we have. We also have the group working on social issues, tree planting, and it's not only about the environment.
On a personal note, is this your first time in Thailand?
No, of course not. I have some very good friends here. I used to visit twice a year. I was here last year on Koh Samui for vacation.
Which places do you enjoy visiting in Thailand?
There are many places. I would like to say the places I would like to go to. Chiang Mai _ I haven't been there yet. Once we start our flights to Chiang Mai, I'm sure I'll spend a few days up there. I've heard a lot about Bangkok, so that will be next. I'll take the opportunity next time to explore more.
Which places would you suggest Thais visit in Taiwan?
There are some regular tourist spots in Taipei, like the 101 building. There are onsens [hot spring baths] that should not be missed. But I think for most travellers now, they should not miss outside of Taipei. There are some very nice cities that have their own flavours. For example, Tainan. It used to be the capital of Taiwan. It was colonised by the Dutch. The remains of old and new are very nice. Further down south it might not be as attractive for Thai travellers because it is a tropical-resort-style area. But on the East shore, there are a lot of things to see. We have the gorgeous natural rock formations and scenic routes along coastline. There are also a lot of resorts in Taitung in terms of agricultural tourism. These are the destinations I think Thai people should not miss if they are in Taiwan.
Is Taiwan well known for onsens?
Oh, yes. Even Japanese tourists come to Taiwan for onsens.
The onsen in Beitou is famous. It carries some sort of energy from the type of rocks that gives off magnetic fields or something that is very good for the skin and nervous system. There are also onsens in Wulai [a famous mountain village in Northern Taiwan]. Some people do not like the smell of onsens because of the sulphur, but the water from Wulai does not give a bad smell. When you come out you will feel your skin is very smooth and you are full of energy. You should try it for yourself.
About the author
- Writer: Karnjana Karnjanatawe