If Peter Foster, chief executive of Kazakhstan’s Air Astana, has grown tired of people asking him about the recent spoof documentary movie, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, he doesn’t let it show.
Asked during an interview with Airline Business whether he expected the movie to boost tourism to the central Asian nation, Foster said Air Astana had seen “a huge upsurge in web hits” to its internet site since the film was released.
He says that while Kazakhstan is “too far away [from western Europe] to become a mass tourist destination”, the Borat movie has increased public interest in the country. “Tourism is not our core business, but there is definitely a market for tourism here, particularly for special interest travel,” adds Foster. And with ambitious plans to more than double its fleet to 40 aircraft by 2016 and offer new European destinations, such as Milan Malpensa, as well as increasing frequencies on existing routes, Air Astana is probably looking forward to a little extra tourist traffic.
The carrier will decide by the end of October whether to supplement its widebody fleet with Boeing 787s or Airbus A350XWBs. “If we go with the A350 we will continue building up our 767 fleet with a view to phasing it out in favour of the A350 when it becomes available,” says Foster.