July 22, 2011

Cambodian airports rebound from financial crisis


The two international Cambodian airports, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, have recovered from the 2008 and 2009 financial crisis, reported the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) yesterday, and are beating 2007 passenger numbers. As Cambodia gains an image as international tourist destination, its two main airports get busier, while the possibility of opening a Sihanoukville airport seem more possible as tourist industry develops in the sea port.

Although the Cambodian encouragement of foreign investment in the Kingdom means more business travel, the tourist industry is the main supplier of international visitors that are attracted mainly for the ancient remains of the Khmer Empire. As for May 2011, the Ministry of Tourism reported already a 13.9 percent growth in foreign visitors compared with the first three months of 2010.

CAPA declared that the two international Cambodian airports handled 1.808 million passengers during the first half of the year, with 912,000 passengers arriving to Phnom Penh and 896,000 to Siem Reap. According to Phillippe Laurent, Cambodia Airports secretary general, cited by CAPA from the Airport Leaders Forum in Singapore last week, the traffic at Siem Reap has been growing at a 22 percent clip so far this year.

Cambodia suffered a big decline of visitors during the 2008-2009 global financial crises, but it was felt especially in Siem Reap, the modern city at the site of the ancient Khmer capital of Angkor. In March 2011 Air France resumed services to Cambodia after more than 35 years of suspension, connecting Phnom Penh with the main European airports like Paris and Madrid. CAPA explains the increase of passengers to the Cambodian capital in the new service of Air France.

Other air companies to Cambodia include the national Angkor Air that began operations in July 2009 and companies from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, among others.

Sihanoukville, the Cambodian sea port in a touristic bay, stills waiting the promise to be opened as international – or at least national – airport. Now is an empty space in the Riem District, while passengers from Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City have to travel to the bay by bus.

‘The shutdown of Siem Reap Airways had an impact on traffic at Siem Reap but more significantly set back hopes for a resumption of scheduled services at Sihanoukville. Siem Reap Airways had been planning to launch services in late 2008 to Sihanoukville, a beach destination on the Cambodian coast, from Siem Reap and Bangkok. But Siem Reap Airways suddenly ceased operations and nearly three years later Cambodia Airports is still trying to attract an airline to Sihanoukville,’ explains CAPA in its website. 

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