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Fresh push for direct Preah Sihanouk-India air route

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An aria view of Preah Sihanouk province. YOUSOS APDOULRASHIM

Fresh push for direct Preah Sihanouk-India air route

The Indian ambassador has expressed her desire for direct air links between her country and Cambodia, especially Preah Sihanouk to encourage more tourists and investors from the emerging South Asian economic giant to visit the coastal province, according to the provincial administration.

The government has granted Preah Sihanouk “Multi-Purpose Special Economic Zone” status, designated the province as a “rising star” in Cambodia’s southwest, and set out to provide greater opportunities and conveniences for investors and quality experiences for travellers.

Devyani Uttam Khobragade voiced enthusiasm for direct flights and other partnerships during a courtesy call and discussion with Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun on March 3, the provincial administration said in a statement.

Khobragade also proposed establishing a sister-city affiliation between Preah Sihanouk and India’s Maharashtra state – which comprises Mumbai – and forming cooperative partnerships in areas such as shipping and logistics, medical and health-related services, information technology (IT) and education.

Preah Sihanouk Provincial Hall spokesman Kheang Phearum told The Post on March 6 that Chamroeun too was on board for direct flights between India and the province, as well as all manner of cooperation to attract more Indian tourists and investors to the locality.

To this end, Chamroeun plans to appoint a provincial deputy governor to cooperate and coordinate with an Indian working group. The governor also asked Khobragade to help promote the Kingdom to her compatriots, and encourage more tourists and investors to make a trip to the province and elsewhere in the country, Phearum added.

Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan also welcomed the idea of direct flights between India and the Kingdom, especially Preah Sihanouk, saying the South Asian country’s massive size and population translate into high-potential tourism and investment source markets.

Although India, much like mainland China, maintains major restrictions on travel abroad due to Covid-19 concerns, Cambodia stands to gain from considerable tailwinds once these restraints are rolled back, he enthused.

“Indians spend plenty of money, no less than other nationals. Generally speaking, Indian holidaymakers represent high potential due to the sizeable population. It’d be marvellous if Preah Sihanouk province could draw in Indian tourists and investors,” he said on March 6.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA) president Chhay Sivlin pointed out that nearby countries were banking on the sheer number of Indians itching to travel, with attractive direct flights. Without non-stop routes to India, the Kingdom is missing out on a conceivably lucrative market, she lamented.

India and Cambodia ought to push harder for direct air routes to be launched, to sway more Indian sightseers to visit the Southeast Asian country, she suggested, voicing optimism that first-time guests would fall in love with the Kingdom and keep coming back for more.

But even with direct flights to India, Cambodia still has much work to do to better cater to Indian tastes and demands.

“We have to consider the right dishes to offer them. And without a fine selection of local wares on display, they won’t be very happy, and that’s because the Indian traveller loves to shop,” Sivlin said.

At the meeting with the Indian ambassador, Chamroeun underlined the friendly relations, solidarity and cooperation that Cambodia and India have shared for nearly 70 years, closely intertwined by economic, trade, investment, culture, tourism and education exchanges, according to the statement.

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