Passenger traffic at Cambodia’s three international airports took an 81.3 per cent nosedive last year from 2019, while cargo traffic dropped 29.9 per cent amid disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to an industry insider.
Khek Norinda, communications and public relations director at Cambodia Airports, the long-standing owner and manager of the three airports, told The Post that global frontier restrictions and the extremely tight entry requirements in force in the Kingdom – “particularly from those inbound from China” – sharply penalised passenger traffic.
Considering the financial toll that Covid-19 has taken on the world economy and the global aviation sector, Norinda pointed out that cargo traffic in Cambodia had sustained a relatively light hit.
He contended that the strong reduction in commercial flights, and hence cargo capacity, had weakened demand for air freight.
“Having an accurate outlook is challenging as the Covid-19 situation is constantly and rapidly evolving. We currently rely on a handful of flights to and from a few Chinese cities, Singapore and South Korea and we don’t expect many changes in the next three months.
“The trend is on a downward spiral due to tightening travel restrictions and quarantine measures,” Norinda said.
Cambodia Logistics Association president Sin Chanthy said that while the air freight situation had yet to see a recovery, land and water transport activity has seemingly snapped back to normal.
He said: “We saw a decrease in air cargo in 2020 and have no projection for a recoupment.”
Cambodia Association of Travel Agents president Chhay Sivlin previously told The Post that the drop in passengers and air cargo was due to a government ban on the issue of visas for tourists.
She said: “Consequently, goods transport follows the same pattern. When there aren’t many tourists coming in and going out, the demand for goods declines in concordance.
“We still see people travel to Cambodia looking for investment opportunities with high hopes of starting a new venture in our country.
“We acknowledge the decline. As Covid-19 tightened its grip, the government stopped issuing visas for travellers. Now we only provide visas for businesspeople and diplomats, not tourists, so the magnitude of the drop in passengers is bound to be huge.”
According to Norinda, Cambodia currently has six cargo carriers that operate service routes to and from Hong Kong, Islamabad, Hyderabad, Dubai, Doha, Dubai, the UAE and Bangkok.
International airports in the Kingdom welcomed 11.6 million passengers in 2019, marking a 10.2 per cent hike from the previous year, Cambodia Airports reported.
In 2019, Phnom Penh International Airport surpassed the six-million passenger mark for the first time, with passenger growth recorded at 11.2 per cent.
Sihanoukville International Airport saw even more remarkable growth, with passengers growing by a whopping 158 per cent. The airport welcomed 1.6 million passengers in 2019.
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.
The three airports combined serve 55-plus destinations and welcome 700 regular flights per week, according to Cambodia Airports.