International airports in the Kingdom welcomed 11.6 million passengers last year, a 10.2 per cent year-on-year hike from 2018.

However, the figures for the fourth quarter of the year weren’t so rosy, with the number of passengers from October to December decreasing by 3.1 per cent compared to the same months in 2018, said a report from Cambodia Airports released on Tuesday.

Last year, the Phnom Penh International Airport surpassed the six-million passenger mark for the first time, with a passenger growth recorded at 11.2 per cent, said the report.

Sihanoukville International Airport saw even more remarkable growth, with passengers growing by a whopping 158 per cent. The airport welcomed 1.6 million passengers last year.

Siem Reap International Airport, in contrast, saw a decline of 12.3 per cent in the number of passengers, with just 3.9 million people passing through the airport that year.

Khek Norinda, the communications and public relations director at Cambodia Airports, said the decline in the last quarter of the year was likely the result of a slowdown in the global economy.

“We will continue to pay close attention to trends in the local aviation industry and publish our conclusions soon,” he said.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents president Chhay Sivlin highlighted the growth experienced by the local aviation sector last year as several Chinese airlines entered the Kingdom.

Sivlin said the private and public sectors have been working to diversify Cambodia’s tourism offers which will help minimise the impact on the industry from the drop in tourist numbers in Siem Reap.

“The private sector and the government are working together to promote Cambodia as a tourism destination, improve the quality of our services, and create new products for tourists,” she said.

Ministry of Tourism spokesman Top Sopheak said foreign tourist arrivals in Siem Reap dropped by 15 per cent last year. He said he hopes new routes connecting to destinations across the region will curb the decline.

Last year, Cambodia welcomed 6.7 million foreign tourists, an eight per cent increase compared to 2018, according to figures from the Ministry of Tourism.