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Airport expansion key to Kingdom tourism

The Kingdom needs US$270 million to expand its three airports if the country is to meet its growing demand as a tourist destination, Cambodia Airport CEO Emmanuel Menanteau said yesterday.

The total number of visitors passing through the Kingdom’s airports will approximately double every 10 years, reaching eight million in 2020 from about four million today, then jumping to 16 million by 2030, he said.

The money would be used to boost the overall capacity of Cambodia’s airports – in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville – by the end of this decade in order to better serve a still-burgeoning tourism industry, according to Menanteau.

“We see the next 10 years as being very important for the development of these airports,” he said during a tourism conference held in Phnom Penh yesterday.

Cambodia Airports, which operates the Kingdom’s airports, is 70 per cent owned by France’s group VINCI and 30 per cent controlled by the Malaysian-Cambodian joint venture Muhibbah Masteron, according to the company’s website.

Menanteau said Phnom Penh International Airport’s international terminal would be expanded to accommodate 4 million visitors by 2015.

Siem Reap International Airport will build a new terminal next year with the expectation of serving 4 million passengers by 2014. Preah Sihanouk International Airport aims to reach the 4 million mark by 2020.

Ministry of Tourism director general Tith Chantha said yesterday that airports alone account for 50 per cent of tourist arrivals, and therefore the proposed improvements are crucial to the Cambodian tourism industry.

“This important point in these strategies is thinking about big infrastructure to ensure tourism growth,” he said, pointing also to the importance of Phnom Penh to that growth.

Tith Chantha said the Phnom Penh airport should be able to handle 10 million passengers a year between 2020 and 2025, but at present accommodates only 2 million. At the same time, Sihanoukville airport’s domestic-only operations should eventually grow to include regional flights, he said.

“It will help more development in the coastal region,” he said of the Sihanoukville airport.

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