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KL hotels fret over AirAsia X's Iranian pullout
Brian Higgs, reporting from ITB Asia, October 18, 2012

AIRASIA X's suspension of its four-times weekly Kuala Lumpur-Tehran service from October 15 has hotels in the Malaysian capital up in arms over the anticipated impact on their business.


Citing “challenging economic and business conditions including the volatility of the Iranian currency” as its basis for pulling out, AirAsia X’s decision comes just months after the Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents and the Iranian Tour Operators Association inked an MoU to collaborate on tourism-related events and promotion of each other’s products. (TTG Asia e-Daily, October 10, 2012)


Eva Cheong, sales manager-travel trade, Seri Pacific Hotel Kuala Lumpur, said 30 per cent of business generated through travel trade tie-ups originates from Iran.


“AirAsia X’s exit from this route will hurt us a lot, especially during Ramadan and the Hari Raya holiday season.


“If Iranians are really keen on visiting Malaysia they will find seats on other airlines, but the problem is that flights from Iran to Malaysia are insufficient at the moment, so maybe we’ll have to rely on strong promotions and attractive rates, and target alternative markets such as China, Japan and Taiwan,” she said.


Azlan Azwan Tahir, assistant director of sales, Furama Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, said: “The pullout by AirAsia X will definitely impact our business negatively since Iran is one of our top 20 markets. We’ve had 2,000 room nights from Iran since we started targeting the market in June, and we work with major inbound operators such as Aspen Holidays and Persian Travel. We’ll have to wait till the peak Iranian travel season in March to assess the overall impact.”


However, Eugene Yeo, director of sales & marketing, Hotel Istana Kuala Lumpur City Centre, was more upbeat. “Even though we get about 4,000 room nights from Iran per year, I believe we won’t be affected to such a large extent since most major inbound operators already have seat allotments with airlines such as Emirates, Qatar Airways and Iran Air,” said Yeo.


Speaking to TTG Asia e-Daily, Azran Osman Rani, CEO, AirAsia X, said: “It’s a very difficult geopolitical environment, and the circumstances don’t allow us to continue. Even though the route only contributes a single-digit percentage of our business, we’re incredibly reluctant to give it up because it showed a lot of promise.”


He added: “We’re definitely open to resuming flights to Tehran in the future. Meanwhile, we’ll concentrate on maintaining existing and opening new routes in markets where we have scale such as Australia, China, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.”


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