Tourism from Russia and Central Asia will be a growth opportunity for Changi Airport, according to Lim Ching Kiat, senior VP for market development at airport operator Changi Airport Group (CAG).

Currently there are no airlines providing air services between Singapore and Central Asia, but that is about to change. Lim says Uzbekistan Airways will be launching services in April to Singapore. He also says the fact that so many Russians like to come to Phuket (Thailand) and Bali (Indonesia) for holidays means CAG sees an opportunity for Russian carriers to cater to this traffic by flying to Singapore.

The Russian carriers, however, may need a partner airline to get the passengers from Singapore to the Southeast Asia’s beach resort locations.

Generally speaking, Singapore Airlines (SIA) was reluctant in the past to partner with foreign carriers, thinking that it could serve the market on its own. The airline had a reputation for being very price aggressive when it came to protecting its home turf, and there were cases in the past where foreign airlines stopped flying to Singapore, because they found it too hard to compete against SIA. A case in point is Air New Zealand.

Lim says one of the key differences between SIA’s current CEO, Goh Choon Phong, and his predecessors, is that he is more willing to grow the airline through alliances and partnerships with other carriers. This means that SIA may actually be helping to facilitate more airlines coming to Singapore, something that rarely happened in the past.

SIA announced in January a codeshare partnership with Air New Zealand, facilitating ANZ’s return to the Singapore market. ANZ will start operating to Singapore in December this year using Boeing 777s, says CAG.

Last year, CAG had five carriers launch services to Singapore. These were Golden Myanmar Airlines in April, Swiss International Air Lines in May, United Airways (Bangladesh) in November and Ethiopian Airlines and Ethiopia’s Regent Airways in December.