More than 5.5 million travellers passed through Cambodia’s three main airports during the first ten months of the year, an increase of 6.7 percent compared to the same period in 2015, according to Cambodia Airports’ latest newsletter. A healthy growth in international visitors accounted for the hike, with domestic travel falling against last year’s figures.
Phnom Penh International Airport was visited by more than 282,000 passengers in October 2016, a raise of 11.2 percent compared to the same month last year. The capital’s airport handled 2,881 flights, an upturn of 4.5 percent year-on-year.
Siem Reap International Airport handled over 262,000 travelers, nine percent more than by October last year. The number of flight movements went up only marginally, reaching 3,000 for an increase of just 0.1 percent.
Passenger traffic also surged at Sihanouk International Airport, where it increased by 152.7 percent to over 17,500 passengers. Meanwhile, flight movements rose to 279, an increase of 55 percent, spurred by a number of new flights to and from several Chinese cities.
For those in the hospitality industry, the hike in air traffic is not just good news; according to Carrol Sahaidak-Beaver, the director of the Cambodia Hotel Association, the figures also act as encouragement to keep up the hard work they’ve been doing to provide a better service to their clients.
“We are working on better understanding our target markets and reflecting that in the guest experience available here,” says Sahaidak-Beaver. “There is also the support from different initiatives of the Ministry of Tourism that are assisting the hospitality industry in a better understanding of how we improve as hosts,” she says.
Sahaidak-Beaver adds that the CHA and its partners are working on expanding the information available on alternative destinations for visitors, noting that “there is much more to Cambodia than temples and beaches.”
New airlines and flights
The addition of Spring Airlines to the group of carriers servicing the capital’s and Siem Reap’s airports was partly responsible for the strong growth in international traffic, as explained in the newsletter. The low-cost carrier, with headquarters in Shanghai, launched a direct flight from Guangzhou to Siem Reap on September 9, and another new route linking the southeastern Chinese city to Phnom Penh on September 30.
Cambodia Angkor Air, the Kingdom’s national flag carrier, announced in mid-October the leasing of two new aircraft to assist with their expansion of medium-range routes. A direct service between Siem Reap and Hanoi was established last month, with flights each way five times a week. A new route linking Siem Reap and Beijing starts next month, with three flights going in either direction per week.
Meanwhile, Sky Angkor Airlines, a joint venture of South Korean and Cambodian investors with focus on the Korean travel market, launched a new service between Siem Reap and Tianjin in northern China, flying three times per week.
A decline in domestic air travel
International inbound and outbound flights accounted for the bulk of the increase seen in the nation’s air traffic, with domestic travel underperforming and “continuing to decline against last year”, as noted in the newsletter. According to Sahaidak-Beaver, the decline in domestic travel could be the result of an improvement in the nation’s roads, which may be leading more people to opt for traveling by car rather than taking airplanes. “Better roads have also opened up better access to alternative destinations like the traditional Siem Reap. Cambodians and internationals living here are exploring more and more of this country, where air travel is not an option,” she added.
The newsletter also mentions that Cambodia Airports is planning to expand the terminal at Sihanoukville’s airport, aiming to raise the number of passenger it can handle per year to 500,000. The commissioning of the new facilities is estimated to take place in the second quarter of 2017.