Travellers have already started using the new wing at Phnom Penh International Airport – part of a $100 million renovation to expand the terminals at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports, doubling their capacity to five million passengers a year each.
But the ongoing renovations of the capital’s airport is not just about equipping it to handle more travellers, it is about giving them more options to shop and dine.
A new retail mix is taking shape and Cambodia Airports – which operates the Kingdom’s three international airports – says passengers will see new openings through the scheduled completion of renovations in March 2016.
The new wing includes a mezzanine floor with a 1,200 square metre business lounge operated by Hong Kong-based Plaza Premium Lounge, set to open later this month. And while the new line-up of retailers has not been announced, the wing is slated to include new speciality stores, more food options and the airport’s first pharmacy.
Swiss travel retailer Dufry will double the footprint of its two duty-free stores in the terminal. Its expanded departure hall outlet will extend from its existing location into the new wing, covering a total of 1,630 square metres.
According to Frederic Waeber, general manager of Dufry Cambodia, the store is being redesigned based on a “walk-through” concept, where all passengers pass through the shop on the way to the departure gates.
“First introduced in Bali in 2013 by Dufry, our walk-through concept is unique in Asia and proved hugely popular with travellers,” Waeber said. “By adopting the walk-through concept re-invented for our Cambodia airports stores, the ultimate aim of our store design is to create an unforgettable shopping experience with a strong sense of place that is unique to Cambodia.”
Incorporating traditional Cambodian elements in its new design, Dufry will use the duty-free store’s added space to offer more international brands.
“Even with the recent opening of shopping malls, it is an additional value having the brands at the airport and not only in downtown,” Waeber said.
While travellers often griped about the old terminal’s scant food and beverage selection, its new wing will see more variety and a food court.
Sajibumi, which operates the food and beverage concessions in the airport, has lined up mix of local and international brands – though it is up to Cambodia Airport to determine the positioning.
“We are responsible for bringing the brands, from local and international offers, whereas the airport is responsible for deciding the best location for each offer based on their commercial approach,” explained Eloi Courcoux, chief executive of Meas Development Holding, Sajibumi’s parent company.
He said the food court, located in the departure hall of the new wing, will have branches of Chatime, Dimsum Emperors and Starbucks Coffee, as well as additional airport outlets of Burger King and Blue Pumpkin.
In addition, two formal dining experiences will be located outside of the food court. Metro, a local restaurant, will offer a mix of Western and Asian cuisine, while Taste of Asia will offer traditional Asian dishes.
Nou Vicheaka, operations manager of Yoshinoya Cambodia, said he is not worried that the new departure-hall food court will detract from the revenues of his branch in the lower-level outdoor concourse.
“We stand out from other businesses because we serve traditional food,” he said of the Japanese fast food chain.
Vicheaka said despite their high concession fees, airport outlets are guaranteed a high volume of relatively high-income potential customers. He said Yoshinoya’s existing airport branch consistently pulls in more revenue than the outlet in the capital’s upscale Aeon Mall.
“In the airport, we can make better income because of the higher prices,” he explained. “The fee for my space in the airport is more expensive … but the customers at the airport tend to have higher income than those in town.”
Starbucks is slated to take a space in the food court, bringing the Seattle-based franchise to Cambodia for the first time, but also potentially putting pressure on other coffee chains in the airport.
Costa Coffee, a British brand that has operated a branch on the airport’s outdoor concourse since 2013, said it is not intimidated by Starbucks’ arrival, according to Shabbir Godil, operations director of four brands in Express Food Group including Costa Coffee.
“Wherever Starbucks goes, they create a coffee culture,” he said. “So in whatever market they go into, all the people who didn’t drink coffee before start drinking coffee, and as more people drink coffee, more people will try Costa. And I’m sure that our coffee stands out from any other coffee shop.”
Godil said Costa Coffee has already demonstrated that its brand can stand tall in a competitive market.
He pointed out that its branch in Boeung Keng Kang 1 is surrounded by up-market coffee purveyors, yet still manages to distinguish itself.
With two international coffeehouse chains in the airport, there might not be room for a local player. Brown Coffee, a Cambodian brand with 10 outlets, was expected to open an outlet in the airport, but its co-founder told the Post last week that it could be left out due to unspecified “location” issues.
Meas Development’s Courcoux said no agreement had been reached with Brown, but he would not rule out the possibility that the chain could open an airport outlet at a future date.
“If we bring brands like Brown Coffee into the airport, we need to agree about the logistics, location and product offering, which is sometimes difficult,” he said. “So I will not say that Brown will not come to the airport, [just that it] might come to the airport at a different stage.”
“We have a very good relationship with [Brown], and right now we are discussing the best location for them and the best timing,” he added.
Courcoux added that, while the first new food concessions should open in November, passengers will have to wait until February to see the full menu.