Tourism players are optimistic of the industry’s potential growth as airlines increase flights following the recent conclusion of negotiations of an air service agreement (ASA) between ASEAN and New Zealand.

According to aviation publication ch-Aviation, the final round of talks over the ASA with ASEAN states was held in Siem Reap on September 13.

With the successful conclusion, the ASEAN-New Zealand ASA (ANZ-ASA) would allow airlines from signatory countries to operate more passenger and cargo services between and beyond ASEAN and New Zealand, it wrote.

The online portal stated that under the agreement, “per Protocol 1 of the ANZ-ASA”, eligible airlines can operate between ASEAN countries and New Zealand with unlimited third and fourth freedom traffic rights.

“In addition, eligible airlines would be able to fly up to seven weekly services with fifth freedom traffic rights in addition to existing bilateral entitlements between individual ASEAN states and New Zealand for one year from the date of entry into force of the agreement and up to 14 weekly services with fifth freedom traffic rights [along with] existing bilateral entitlements after one year from the date of entry into force of the agreement,” ch-Aviation mentioned.

Tom Forster, manager of Economic Regulation at New Zealand’s Ministry of Transport, was quoted as saying that it was good that the NZ government was able to get the new air services agreement across the line.

“The new air services agreement raises the overall quality of our air services agreements with ASEAN and underlines the importance of air connectivity for trade, tourism, education and other people to people links,” he reportedly said.

Thourn Sinan, chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia Chapter (PATACC), told The Post on September 19 that the tourism sector remains a key contributor to Cambodia’s economic growth despite the current global economic crisis. During this difficult period, he said, there is a crucial need for fast service and additional options on transportation.

“I have observed that the industry has not been recovering as fast as we expected, and we don’t have many options of transportation, especially direct flights from other destinations while experiencing even slower growth than our neighbours. So, growth in direct flights from other big countries and cities will make us more attractive to tourists in those countries,” Sinan said.

He explained that although New Zealand is a small country and Cambodia does not have direct flights with them, the latter would benefit from the ASA as it connects with direct flights with other ASEAN countries.

“Once we have flights from them, they will serve as a hub to connect us with other countries,” he added.

Currently, online publication ch-aviation said, there are no scheduled passenger airlines operating from New Zealand to Laos, Viet Nam, the Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand or Brunei Darussalam country pairs, although Emirates “does operate a weekly B777-200F flight between Auckland and Hanoi”.

Previously, the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation said a total of 26 international airlines were operating 844 flights to or from Cambodia each week as of end-May – counting those inbound and outbound separately – most of which are intra-ASEAN.

Phnom Penh accounted for the majority of the flights at 634 or 75.12 per cent, followed by Siem Reap (196; 23.22 per cent) and Sihanoukville (22; 2.61 per cent). And, 43 airlines were operating in Cambodia in 2019 prior to the pandemic, excluding those solely running charter services.