Capitalising on booming travel from Vietnam and China, the domestic aviation sector has enjoyed 18 per cent passenger growth for the second year running, according to a new report, which describes Cambodia as having one of the fastest-growing markets in Southeast Asia.
The report, by the Australia-based Centre for Aviation, says that Cambodia’s three commercial airports in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville received 5.1 million arrivals in 2013, up from 4.3 million in 2012.
Capacity at Cambodia’s two main airports is being pushed to the limit as passenger traffic at Siem Reap International more than doubled since 2009 to 2.7 million in 2013, while Phnom Penh International received 2.4 million arrivals in 2013, up from 2.1 million in 2012.
The growth of the industry will be met with ongoing safety, airport development and training this year, Moeung Sathya, director of planning and policy at the State Secretariat for Civil Aviation, said yesterday.
“We have entered a project with a Japanese firm to improve our Air Traffic Management system, the Siem Reap and Phnom Penh airports are undergoing massive development to cater for double the passenger capacity by 2015, and we are working continuously with the International Civil Aviation Organization on our international safety standards,” he said.
The report attributes much of the growth to increases from Chinese and Vietnamese visitors. According to the figures, which use Ministry of Tourism data, Chinese visitors to Cambodia rose 40 per cent from 2012 totals to 417,000 in 2013. The centre said visitors from China have quadrupled since 2009, and they now account for 11 per cent of total arrivals.
Vietnamese arrivals, however, remained at the top of the list, with more than 781,000 people (23 per cent of the whole) visiting Cambodia either by plane or overland.
Chief analyst and chief representative at the Centre for Aviation, Brendan Sobie, cautioned that despite the strong growth, the country needs to be wary of how political issues are perceived and interpreted by tourists abroad.
“Political stability is a key as tourism accounts for an overwhelming amount of the passengers in Cambodia,” he said, referring to the still-contested July election and unrest in the garment sector. He added that the tourism sector and the airport company need to be proactive at attracting more carriers.