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Cheer for travel, investment boost after Malaysia reopening

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Tourists visit Ochheuteal Beach in Sihanoukville last month. Heng Chivoan

Cheer for travel, investment boost after Malaysia reopening

Cambodia can expect a further boost to its tourism and investment industries when regional neighbour Malaysia reopens its border to international travel from April 1, according to senior aviation officials and tourism industry experts.

State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) spokesman Sin Chansereyvutha told The Post on March 15 that Cambodia will welcome more daily flights from Malaysia when it reopens its borders and removes the quarantine requirement, the latter of which he speculated has been driving potential Malaysian visitors away from international travel – including to the Kingdom.

Only two airlines currently operate flights between Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur and Phnom Penh: the budget airline AirAsia and national carrier Malaysia Airlines. These airlines operate weekly flights that carry relatively few passengers, said Chansereyvutha.

Another Malaysian carrier, Malindo Airlines, previously operated flights from Kuala Lumpur, which have since been suspended due to low passenger numbers that were loss making. But Chansereyvutha expressed confidence that the airline would resume flights to Cambodia after April 1.

Currently, Cambodia has been receiving “around 1,000 passengers” a day, a majority of which arrive on direct flights from the ASEAN region, with others on connecting flights from further destinations such as the US, the Middle East and Europe.

“Some airlines fly twice, and some three times a week, mostly from the ASEAN region, which has the most flights because the region already has significant flight connections, such as from Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and other countries,” he said.

The Cambodian embassy in Kuala Lumpur on March 9 said that the Malaysian government had made the decision to reopen the border for international travel after reviewing the science and practicalities related to public Covid-19 measures, as well as from observing the reopening of borders of other countries.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA) president Chhay Sivlin welcomed the Malaysian government’s upcoming reopening, saying that more connecting flights between Malaysia and Cambodia will be a “good sign” for the tourism sector in both countries.

She said that the viability of tourism from Malaysia is reliant on the active presence of the aviation sector regionally and worldwide, as it provides key means of tourism travel given that land-based options such as rail are still limited.

“In the past, Malaysian visitors could not come [to Cambodia] due to border restrictions as well as the limited number of flights. Now that restrictions are going to be lifted, Cambodia will see increased tourism from Malaysia,” she said.

Sivlin said that Malaysia’s reopening and the resumption of international flights will attract not only tourists from Malaysia, but also tourism investors, who she suggests could help Cambodia restore its tourism sector to pre-pandemic levels.

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