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Extra flights, but not to the coast

PHNOM Penh and Siem Reap airports were projected to achieve double-digit percentage increases in international airline passenger traffic next year, government officials said yesterday.

But regular flights to Sihanoukville have yet to be scheduled, despite pleas for support from potential investors as Korean representatives joined those from Cambodia's private sector in emphasisng the importance of the airport to the coastal town.

Nicolas Deviller, chief executive of airport-management company Société Concessionaire Des Aéroports, said yesterday at the capital’s Raffles Le Royal Hotel that Phnom Penh could see 10 percent more international passengers and 6 percent more plane movements in 2011.

Siem Reap was slated for a rise of 13 percent in international passenger traffic and 7 percent more plane movements.

“The trend is quite positive”, he said at a briefing.

The SCA’s coming winter season, from October 31 to March 26, would see international and domestic flights increase as airlines added 31 new weekly flights to the schedule.

AirAsia is poised to add seven weekly flights between Phnom Penh and Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok Airways plans to create an extra daily flight between the capitals, Cambodia Angkor Air is set to establish seven more domestic flights between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and Korean Air will launch seven weekly flights between Seoul to Siem Reap.

Deviller highlighted regional travel as an area for tourism industry expansion.

China, South Korea and Japan were among countries considered possible sources of tourism, he said, but added, “we could see more and more coming from India”.

However, in line with expectations, SCA did not announce any scheduled flights to Sihanoukville’s airport.

On Tuesday, a representative from the private sector called the absence of a Sihanoukville flight “possibly the single most critical issue affecting tourism”. Visiting businesspeople yesterday also spoke of the airport’s importance during an investment presentation with the Council for the Development of Cambodia.

Delegates from 13 South Korean companies are seeking opportunities in Cambodia, in part due to increased labour costs in China.

On the sidelines of the meeting, Myung Cheol Jin, chief executive officer of Yoonhan Mineral Salt, said he had been impressed with the investment in tourism in coastal areas.

“I was interested in the investment in leisure and resort areas in Preah Sihanouk province,” he said yesterday.

“I will visit to the area for feasibility study about fresh water supply and infrastructure and especially the airport, which is essential to attract tourists. If it’s suitable for investment, I will start in six months.”

Fellow investors said they were interested in moving into tourism, cable TV, internet TV broadcasting and automobile assembly.

SCA confirmed yesterday that it was conducting talks with airlines, including Cambodia’s national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air, to begin flights to Sihanoukville.

Representatives from the Ministry of Tourism told The Post this week they would also urge carriers to start flights, but said market demand was proving a barrier.

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