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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Potential for Cambodia’s aviation sector to soar ahead

A plane sits on the tarmac at Siem Reap International Airport.
A plane sits on the tarmac at Siem Reap International Airport. Photo supplied

Potential for Cambodia’s aviation sector to soar ahead

Cambodia is well positioned to capitalise on the rapid growth of air passenger traffic worldwide, with the Kingdom already one of the fastest growing tourism markets in Southeast Asia and set to grow further as more than a third of the world’s passenger air traffic passes through the region.

Commercial airlines carried 3.8 billion passengers on scheduled services last year, a 7 percent increase over 2015, according to an annual International Air Transport Association (IATA) report published yesterday.

The Asia-Pacific region accounted for 35 percent of global passenger air traffic – the largest share of any region – with 1.3 billion passengers taking flights on carriers registered in the region, an 11.3 percent increase compared to 2015.

While the 2017 edition of the World Air Transport Statistics (WATS) report did not specifically identify growth patterns for Cambodia passenger growth, it noted that all the top-five performing international routes were in the Asia-Pacific region. The top passenger airport pairs included flights between Hong Kong and Taipei, Jakarta and Singapore, and Bangkok and Hong Kong.

Ho Vandy, secretary-general of the Cambodia National Tourism Alliance, said Cambodia’s airports were well positioned to leverage the region’s high rate of growth to develop its aviation and tourism sectors.

“Looking at the overall scope of regional growth, the percentages for air travel continue to increase,” he said. “Additionally, we have seen an increase of short-term visitors that are benefitting from a highly competitive regional market that provides flights at reasonable costs.”

Cambodia received over 5 million foreign tourists last year, generating $3.4 billion of economic activity, or about 13 percent of GDP, according to Tourism Ministry figures.Vandy noted that 54 percent of visitors arrived by air last year, adding that the increasing share of travellers arriving by air compared to overland travel was a positive for the industry as these travellers tend to have higher spending power.

He said the growth in air passenger traffic to Cambodia could be expected to continue on pace as long as the country maintains its political and economic stability. He added that expansions to the Kingdom’s airports should be sufficient to handle the growth, while the continued compliance of civil aviation authorities to international safety and regulatory standards has created opportunities for even more connections and passengers.

According to Cambodia Airports, passenger traffic at the Kingdom’s three international airports increased 25 percent year-on-year during the first eight months of this year, with 43 commercial airlines operating scheduled flights.

Nuno Costa, marketing and sales director at Cambodia Airports, said Cambodia was benefitting from the robust growth of the Asia-Pacific aviation market as this was its main source of passenger air traffic. He said there were still “huge” opportunities to leverage this growth with more flight connections.

“There is a huge potential from unserved markets [such as] Australia, India and Russia, and underserved markets such as Japan, Philippines and China.”

Khek Norinda, spokesman for Cambodia Airports, said the French-owned airport operator was committed to opening up new linkages.

“For connectivity, our route development strategy is looking at how we can diversify connectivity and generate more traffic by attracting more airlines and opening up new routes that operate more frequently,” he said.

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