Cambodia and Russia yesterday signed an air transport services agreement that will facilitate direct flights between the countries, according to Russian state news agency TASS.
At a signing ceremony in the Peace Palace, representatives from both countries signed the agreement in the presence of Prime Minister Hun Sen and visiting Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
There have been no direct flights between the two countries since Russian national carrier Aeroflot ceased operating a flight between Moscow and Phnom Penh in the early 1990s. Currently, travellers must fly via neighbouring countries such as Vietnam and Thailand.
Lim Kao, vice chief executive of state-owned Cambodia Angkor Airlines (CAA), said that while direct flights could help attract more Russian tourists to the country, the airline was not considering adding scheduled service to Russia.
However, he said that CAA would target Russian tourists by increasing flights to Vietnam, and will have a new flight from Cam Ranh Bay in southeastern Vietnam to Siem Reap next year.
“Even if we cannot fly directly to Russia, we will do the marketing to attract tourists from there,” he said.
Kao said that CAA could explore tying up with Russian tourism firms to facilitate travellers who want to come to Cambodia.
Phav Proeun, head of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents in Siem Reap, said many Russian tourists travel to Cambodia by taking connecting flights from Thailand.
“If there is a direct flight from Russia, I think there will be more possibility to attract Russian tourists to Cambodia,” he said.
Despite the rise in Russian tourists over the last few years, Proeun said there was a slowdown in the last few months largely due to Russia’s flagging economy.
According to Tourism Ministry figures, 38,600 Russian tourists visited Cambodia during the first nine months of the year, compared to 83,400 during the same period last year.
In August, Tourism Minister Thong Khon attributed the declining tourist arrivals to Russia’s economic slowdown, while the cancellation of the KaZantip music festival was cited as another reason for dampened Russian tourist arrivals in the first quarter.