Government officials and tourism experts say they are worried about a diplomatic crisis involving Qatar and its effect on flights between Phnom Penh and Doha. Six Arab countries have cut diplomatic ties with Qatar over its alleged support for Islamic State. Four of the states say they will close air and sea transport links with Qatar.
Doha is one of the Gulf states’ international flight hubs and has links to Phnom Penh through Qatar Airways. Sin Chansereyvutha, spokesman for Cambodia’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said the move could affect tourist flights to Cambodia. If the transport cut took place for Qatar flight connections tourists would face problems, he added. Qatar Airways’ office in Phnom Penh yesterday said it knew about the development but declined to comment on it.
Ho Vandy, secretary-general of the Cambodian National Tourism Alliance and president of World Express Tour and Travel, said that tourist arrivals from Middle East to Cambodia would slow down. “If there was a ban on travel among Middle East countries to Qatar, Arab tourists would be among them. It is a concern because the number of tourists has been increasing,” he said.
Currently, Cambodia’s flights to the Middle East are only via Qatar Airways, but there are code shares in Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia, according to Chansereyvutha. The UAE-based Emirates Airline will launch daily Dubai-Yangon-Phnom Penh flights from early next month.
Saudi Arabia yesterday banned Qatar Airways from its airspace, while Abu Dhabi’s state-owned Etihad Airways and Dubai’s Emirates Airline said they would today suspend all flights to and from Doha until further notice. The harshest restrictions came from Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation, which banned all Qatari planes from landing at the Kingdom’s airports and stopped them from crossing Saudi airspace. It also banned Saudi commercial and private air operators from serving Qatar. Bahrain’s civil aviation authority, meanwhile, announced flights to and from Qatar had been suspended, according to state news agency BNA.