By WATCHIRANONT THONGTEP
BILLIONAIRE businessman Richard Branson is considering entering his Virgin airline into the Thai aviation market soon while ramping up his Virgin Active health club chain.
“We are just starting beautiful health clubs here in Thailand. One day, I expect to fly our airlines in the Kingdom. It should be here sooner in a big way but at least we have radio stations.
“I think in January and February there will be a good thing to be announced,” he said yesterday.
“I would love to operate flights, one day, to connect to Australia via here,” the founder of the British Virgin Group said during a brief stopover in Bangkok.
With his philosophy of “shake the market up”, Virgin Group launched Virgin Australia airlines in 2000. Now the carrier claims it has captured 35 per cent of the Australian aviation industry from its rival Qantas Airlines.
Also, it appears that Virgin Group is very active in expanding its Virgin Active health club in Asia-Pacific, including Thailand and Singapore.
Triple the number of health clubs
Before hitting Bangkok over the weekend, Branson revealed on Australian media that he was planning to invest about $200 million (Bt7.2 billion) to more than triple the number of health clubs over three years in Australia.
Thailand has three locations: Empire Tower, EmQuartier and Central WestGate.
Virgin Group has had a strong presence in Thailand for 13 years through its partner BEC-Tero Radio, which operates two rations stations – 95.5 Virgin Hitz and Virgin Star FM98 – in Bangkok.
“Radio is everlasting despite entering into the digital age. There will be a new form of radio on Facebook and mobile phones and other digital radio platforms, which are available anywhere,” Branson said.
People love radio. For example, 90 per cent of people in the US and 88 per cent in Britain listen to the radio, he said.
Ian Grace, chief executive officer of Virgin Radio International, said his company has real radio in many other countries such as Italy, France, Canada, Lebanon and Dubai.
By year-end, it will have one in Jakarta and is going back to the UK in March or April.
Neil Thompson, managing director of BEC-Tero Radio, said the radio business gained strength this year through integration with other businesses such as concerts and shows, and on-ground, on-air and online activities.