Cambodia anticipates a robust winter season, buoyed by a surge in international tourist arrivals. The country is ready to host visitors at various sites, with Angkor Wat temple as a prime attraction, enhanced by the new Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport (SAI), according to the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA).

SSCA spokesperson Sinn Chanserey Vutha said on October 31 that since SAI commenced its trial operations, there has been a noticeable uptick in international tourist arrivals.

He said the daily average has risen by approximately 2,700 passengers, marking an increase of about 1,000 from the previous week when the airport was managing around 2,600 travellers daily.

He believes the boost to be indicative of the burgeoning tourism sector.

The majority of these passengers, around 75%, hail from ASEAN countries, with European travellers making up the remaining 25%.

“For the winter season, spanning from the end of October 2023 to March 2024, we anticipate the flight frequency at SAI to rise to 40 per day, with the airline count increasing to between nine and 10,” he said.

He noted that the current schedule shows 38 flights operating daily, up by four from the previous week, primarily originating from ASEAN countries and China.

Presently, seven airlines operate at SAI, comprising six international carriers and one local airline.

The airport spans approximately 700ha, located about 40km from Angkor Wat and 51km from Siem Reap town.

Prime Minister Hun Manet said via an October 31 social media post that SAI boasts a design that harmoniously blends elements of culture, nature and modern technology.

He also pointed out that the airport is equipped to handle class 4E flights, which includes the capacity for large aircraft to land, such as the Boeing 747 and Airbus A340.

The airport is projected to accommodate seven million passengers per year in the short term, with a long-term goal of serving 20 million passengers annually.

“This new development will serve as a significant draw for tourism in Siem Reap and the nation at large. It is poised to attract investment and yield substantial benefits for the local economy and its people,” he said.

The premier noted that air route development is a crucial aspect of the “people, water, electricity and technology” initiative, which is the second key priority of his government’s Pentagonal Strategy-Phase I. This emphasis will be continued in Phase II, which prioritises enhancing connectivity and efficiency within the transport and logistics sectors, with strategic objectives centred on optimising support infrastructure and developing new facilities.

The airport, which has the capacity to host 38 airlines, can facilitate 65,000 flights in 2024 and 112,000 by 2040 and will be able to handle 10,000 tonnes of air cargo in 2024 and 26,000 tonnes by 2040, according to the SSCA.