An $80 million domestic airport project in Mondulkiri province is shaping up to be a main driver for ecotourism development in the Kingdom’s northeast corridor.
Minister in charge of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) Mao Havannall on March 30 led a meeting with representatives of the developer, PowerChina International Group Ltd (PIG), to provide input on a recently-completed feasibility study report for the development of the airport and nearby industrial park.
Havannall called on PIG to keep the Ministry of Tourism’s vision of regional tourism and economic development in mind and to find new ways of enticing airlines to request landing rights at the project, suggesting new tourism products, new economic activities and investments.
The airport will be built on a 300ha site and may break ground as soon as next year, according to SSCA spokesman Sin Chansereyvutha.
And according to provincial governor Svay Sam Eang, provincial authorities are demarcating a 600ha plot for the new airport some 22km south of Sen Monorom town in O’Raing district’s Sen Monorom commune.
In a December 31 letter, the Council of Ministers said the government had decided in principle to allow PIG to study and develop a proposal to build the project, adding that the Chinese company would have to foot the bill for the project’s initial feasibility study.
The government also authorised the SSCA to lead preparation of a Framework Agreement with PIG in accordance with applicable procedures.
SSCA’s Chansereyvutha told The Post on March 31 that the government wants to develop the area in a way akin to Preah Sihanouk province, which he noted has seen a strong surge in tourism, commerce, investment and transport volume.
He pointed out that flight traffic at Sihanouk International Airport jumped 300 per cent between 2017 and 2019.
Voicing optimism that the new airport would be in line with international standards, Chansereyvutha stressed that new tourism products should be a priority to ensure regular flights.
“People will be able to sightsee a lot of them and discover the range of economic activities in the area, compelling them to set up a slew of businesses and figure out what agro-industrial products will need to be brought in by air,” he said.
Provincial Department of Tourism director Ngin Sovimean noted that scores of ecotourism projects had been proposed in recent years, highlighting a recent venture set to be developed on 10ha that was brought to his attention.
He declined to reveal more, merely commenting on the new airport: “I hope that if this project works out, it’ll attract more investors to our area.”