Qatar Airways touched down at Phnom Penh International Airport (PNH) on October 29, marking its comeback after suspending operations due to the Covid-19 pandemic and aiming to tap into Cambodia’s resurgent tourism sector.

The airline announced that it has reintroduced daily flights connecting travellers to Phnom Penh via Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s primary urban centre.

It said the move stands as a testament to the airline’s dedication to offering its customers top-notch connectivity, granting them passage to more than 160 destinations around the world.

It noted that now passengers can also enjoy seamless connections through Hamad International Airport (DOH) in Doha, heralded as the ‘Best Airport in the Middle East’ at the 2023 World Airport Awards.

Vu Thi Thanh Huong, Qatar’s country manager for Vietnam and Cambodia, emphasised the airline’s commitment to delivering outstanding services and enticing more Middle Eastern tourists to the country.

“We are proud to offer travellers the world-class service that Qatar Airways is renowned for, ensuring a smooth and memorable journey. We eagerly await the opportunity to welcome passengers to the Pearl of Asia,” she said.

Cyril Girot, CEO of Cambodia Airports – a subsidiary of VINCI Airports, a global leader in private airport operation – viewed this as an affirmation of the tourism industry’s gradual rebound.

“The reestablishment of daily flights between Doha – and the Gulf region – and Phnom Penh is indeed a positive indication for both Cambodia’s leisure sector and its business community,” he said.

He also praised his airport teams for their relentless efforts in attracting new airlines, noting that Qatar’s return to PNH is a significant achievement.

According to the State Secretariat for Civil Aviation (SSCA), 26 international airlines were operating 844 weekly flights to and from Cambodia, as of May 31.

Phnom Penh dominated this figure with 634 flights, making up 75.1% of the total. Siem Reap (SAI) and Sihanoukville (KOS) followed with 196 (23.2%) and 22 flights (2.6%), respectively.

The data shows a sharp contrast from 2019 when 43 airlines operated in the Kingdom, not counting charter-only services.

The Ministry of Tourism noted a dramatic rise in foreign visitors during the first eight months of 2023, however, with over 3.5 million international tourists, an increase of 250.8% from the previous year. A vast majority (84.7%) hailed from the Asia-Pacific region.

Despite this surge, tourist figures remain 19.7% below the peak in 2019, just before the pandemic.

For the first eight months of 2023, European and American tourists constituted 10.4% and 4.6% of the arrivals, marking increases of 288.1% and 210.5% respectively.

In terms of travel modes, 64.3% arrived by land, 34.7% by air and a minor 1.1% via inland waterways.

Thailand led as the predominant source of tourists, boasting 1,186,999 visitors, followed by Vietnam (641,758), China (364,844) and Laos (212,984), according to the ministry.