Siem Reap Angkor International Airport (SAI) will be a major infrastructural feat that expands and improves the Kingdom’s air passenger and cargo services, bringing in more foreign tourists to fuel post-Covid-19 recovery in the industry.

State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) chief Mao Havannall made the remark last week during a technical site visit to the three-phased airport project in Sotr Nikum district’s Ta Yek commune east of Siem Reap town.

SAI developer Angkor International Airport Investment (Cambodia) Co Ltd (AIAI) reported that the main work on the initial phase had passed the 75-per-cent completion mark earlier this month, costing a total of $620 million.

The company affirmed its commitment to reaching 100 per cent by end-March – up from the 90 per cent rate put forward last month – as well as commissioning and opening the airport by October, barring a major setback.

AIAI disclosed that the gross investment figure had been revised up to $1.100 billion in 2022 from $880 million in 2019. Previous reports indicated that the latter sum had been earmarked for all three phases, with $500 million to be spent on the first and second.

The global aviation industry as a whole experienced post-Covid recovery and growth in the second half of 2022, albeit uneven, Havannall remarked.

Countries are “reopening” and easing Covid-related travel restrictions, including in the Asia-Pacific region, and this will stimulate recovery in the aviation industry, he said, noting that a general return to pre pandemic conditions is expected in 2023-2024 among more optimistic outlooks.

Air transport infrastructure offers a growing portfolio of investment opportunities, as economic activity in the Kingdom picks up faster than 2021 predictions would suggest, and tourism along with other sectors return to some semblance of normalcy, he claimed.

Havannall speculated that the airport would be a major driver for long-term and sustainable growth of Cambodia’s economy as well as competitiveness amid regional and global economic integration.

Cambodia has by and large been building even stronger, more consistent and coherent economic cooperation and relations with development partners, and continues to introduce and implement financial and socio-economic intervention policies to manage Covid, stabilise the economy and improve people’s livelihoods, he added.

Speaking to The Post on February 21, Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia Chapter chairman Thourn Sinan remarked that the airport will accommodate long-haul flights and encourage the addition of more routes linking the Kingdom to regional and global destinations.

“If it can be up and running within the year, the airport will be an impetus, providing more options for travellers amid the current gradual course of recovery,” he said.

“We do hope that the airports will connect to more destinations, thus bringing Cambodia closer, and drawing in more tourists.”

Breaking ground on March 15, 2020 on a 700.06ha site, the 4E-category airport will reportedly be able to receive about seven million passengers per year initially, 10 million by 2030, and 20 million by 2050. Similarly, annual cargo capacity is also expected to rise from 10,000 tonnes initially to 60,000 tonnes by 2050.

For reference, in the “4E” code designation, the number “4” means that the airport’s runway is longer than 1,800m and the letter “E” signifies that the runway is designed for aircraft with a wingspan of up to but not including 65m, and landing gear where the outside edges of the outermost wheels are less than 14m apart.