Industry insiders believe direct flights could commence between Cambodia and Indonesia this year, as long running suggestions that the countries will boost their air connections look set to finally come to fruition.
The pledge was made as Ministry of Tourism figures showed that last year Cambodia received more than 6.2 million visitors, of which 55,753 were from Indonesia – up 11.8 per cent on 2017.
At the 2019 Asean Tourism Forum hosted in Vietnam’s Ha Long City, Cambodian Minister of Tourism Thong Khon held bilateral talks with his Indonesian counterpart Arief Yahya, marking the 60th anniversary of Cambodian-Indonesian diplomatic ties.
The pair discussed ways to boost the number of tourists travelling between the countries, agreeing on the establishment of a working team for bilateral cooperation in the tourism sector, capacity building for Cambodian officials’ use of mobile positioning data and mutual support on staging cultural events aimed at enhancing tourism.
Cambodia Association of Travel Agents president Chhay Sivlin said Indonesia is a highly populous nation whose citizens regularly travel to neighbouring countries, but the lack of direct flights to Cambodia means Indonesian tourists to the Kingdom have been limited.
However, Sivlin said direct flights may start this year, with Cambodia set “to enjoy a lot of benefits, especially in the hotel and hospitality sectors”.
Sivlin said Cambodia also needs to make efforts to improve its ability to welcome guests, especially by providing Halal food to Indonesia’s Muslim majority population, which is currently difficult to find in the country.
“I would like to remind Cambodian businesses to make more effort to be ready to receive tourists – whose numbers are increasing every year – in terms of foreign languages, professional ethics, suitable residences and diverse types of food,” she said.
Chairman of the Cambodian chapter of the Pacific Asia Travel Association Thourn Sinan said direct flights between the two countries will bring benefits to Cambodia beyond tourism in both investment and trade.
“Indonesia is progressing in all sectors, especially in the industrial and agricultural sectors, so if we have direct flights it will not only help Cambodia increase the number of visitors, but it will help bring in more direct investment,” he said.
Cambodia and Indonesia have been planning direct flights for some time, and Sinan hopes that it will finally happen in this year.
“The governments of both countries will push for the first direct connections to be established in 2019 but obviously I do not yet know for sure if it will happen,” he said.
Some 80 Cambodian and Indonesian business people gathered at a trade fair in Phnom Penh in September last year to forge partnerships and explore ways to boost bilateral trade.
An Indonesian embassy report said trade between the two countries reached more than $318 million between January and September last year – an increase of 8.3 per cent compared with the same period in 2017.
The report also said Cambodian exports to Indonesia grew to more than $17 million in 2017, an increase of more than 12 per cent from 2016. Imports from Indonesia also reached more than $301 million, an increase of roughly eight per cent.