Cambodia and Laos on Monday signed a deal to encourage regional airlines to increase their services between both countries in a bid to boost tourism.
Vann Chanty, director for air transport at Cambodia’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said that the memorandum of understanding (MoU) will push airlines in both countries to operate more flights between Cambodia and Laos due to the increased demand from tourists. “We need to update the agreement to comply with reality and the demands of the market,” said Chanty.
“Currently, there are three airlines offering flights between Cambodia and Laos. They are Cambodia Angkor Air, Lao Airlines and Vietnam Airlines, and they have about 21 flights per week. Through this new MoU, it will be increased to 30 flights each week,” he added. Chanty noted that the passenger load between the two countries increased by five percent last year to 178,000 and hoped the figure will hit 200,000 in the next two years.
Keo Sivorn, director-general of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, told Khmer Times that the new agreement will make it easier for airlines to have direct flights between Cambodia and Laos and will open up new routes, like from Phnom Penh and Preah Sihanouk to Vientiane or Luang Prabang. “Although the Lao air transport market growth is slow, the new agreement will allow airlines in Laos to have more options when it comes to destinations in Cambodia,” he said.
Kong Sopheareak, the director of statistics and information at the Ministry of Tourism, said 1.3 million international tourists visited Cambodia in the first two months of 2017, of which 65,675 were from Laos. This was a 64.5 percent increase compared with last year. “We want to push for more connections by land, air and river which will be a positive development for the tourism sector,” said Sopheareak. “We have many beaches while Laos is a landlocked country, so flights from Vientiane or Luang Prabang to Sihanoukville will be good to attract more tourists.”
PATA Cambodia Chapter chairman Thourn Sinan lauded the MoU, saying that more flights between Cambodia and Laos would be good for tourism in both countries. “We see that tourists from Laos are in the top ten [most frequent visitors to Cambodia] but we don’t have any research or data about where they go when they are in the country. My prediction is that these tourists go to Phnom Penh to shop before returning to their country,” said Sinan.
“We cannot just depend on Laotian tourists travelling to Cambodia by air because that’s still a small number. So it’s good to also look at Laotians traveling to our country overland if we want to attract more of them to visit us, especially Preah Sihanouk province,” he added.
Early this month, both Cambodia and Laos, in a bid to promote bilateral tourism, announced that they would create joint tour packages to facilitate the visit of tourists to both countries. The tour packages will focus on provinces, in both countries, that lie on either side of the Mekong river.
Stung Treng sits on Cambodia’s northern border with Champassak province in Laos, at the point where the Mekong River flows into Cambodia after swirling around southern Laos’ 4,000 islands. “Champassak in Laos and Stung Treng in Cambodia have agreed to jointly advertise their historic temples and eco-tourism spots to tourists,” said a Ministry of Tourism statement. The ministry also stated that the Champassak provincial tourism department would also arrange tour packages for Laotians to visit Cambodia.