Con Korfiat is, chief executive officer of Viva Macau, told reporters in HCM City yesterday that the carrier expected to fly between HCM City and Macau daily by the end of this year when the airline had more aircraft.

The one-and-a-half-year-old airline Viva Macau now operates four weekly HCM City-Macau flights on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Korfiatis said the airline was busy in the early months of2008 and that its current seat occupancy stood at around 50%. He expected a jump in the number of Vietnamese visitors to Macau, which is emerging as a favourite Asian place for leisure, sports, entertainment, concerts, shopping and international events.

He said statistics showed the number of Vietnamese visitors to Macau had gained double-digit growth since Viva Macau launched direct service between the territory and Vietnam.

"We have seen a significant rise in bookings of the passengers from Vietnam, especially tourists and guest workers," he said.

He said now might not be a good time for many Vietnamese people to travel abroad due to ongoing economic woes but hoped that more people would come to Macau when the airline offered attractive fares that make holidays in Macau more affordable.

The airline yesterday began offering 1,000 air tickets starting fromUS$20 for passengers in Vietnam to book on its website at www.flyvivamacau.com or its newly-appointed sales agent in Vietnam, TransViet Travel Group, until June 23 for travel by July 31.

He said the airline had a range of air tickets starting from the promotional price to higher rates of US$20-30. He noted the highest fare for a single HCM City-Macau trip was about 30-40% lower than that sold by full-serviced airlines.

He said Trans Viet Travel would be an alternative for people to book air tickets and look for more information about Viva Macau. "We understand that not everyone in Vietnam has access to the internet and credit card services to make online bookings."

Nguyen Hai, chair of TransViet Travel, said his company would distribute air tickets for Viva Macau at its headquarters here as well as its agents and travel firms across Vietnam.

Hai said Macau was a good choice for people to spend their short-term holiday abroad. Therefore, TransViet Travel offers options worth from US$139 for airfares and hotel rooms as well as from US$199 for package tours.

Korfiatis said Viva Macau would continue to offer promotional fares to attract more visitors from Vietnam though the airline industry was struggling with tough times caused by higher fuel cost.

Korfiatis, however, said this market still held huge long-term growth potential as people's incomes were rising and Vietnamese nationals could get visas upon arrival.

Korfiatis stressed Vietnam was not the market where Viva Macau only took passengers from, but the carrier also promoted it in Macau, Hong Kong, China, Japan and other markets where the airline was active. "People in the markets that we are operating are very interested in our products that combine Macau and Vietnam."

The Saigon Times Daily - June 19, 2008