Aviation authorities tout efforts to establish more direct flights.
Although the number of overall arrivals in Cambodia continued to grow in November, all-important air arrivals at Siem Reap, Cambodia’s main tourism draw, fell 10.89 percent year on year to 52,545, according to Ministry of Tourism figures.
Overall arrivals were up 2.1 percent compared to November 2009, buoyed by a surge in arrivals by land and water.
In all, 195,570 people visited Cambodia last month for travel or business purposes.
Total air arrivals fell just 2.84 percent as the number of people visiting Phnom Penh by air increased 6.88 percent compared with a year earlier to 52,181.
Air arrivals have now fallen 11.58 percent over the first 11 months of the year compared with the same period in 2008.
Tourists arriving by air generally spend more money and stay longer in the Kingdom than visitors entering the country by land.
Thong Khon, minister of tourism, said the decline in air arrivals was not limited to Cambodia but was being experienced by most nations across the globe.
Over the first 11 months of the year, 1,926,615 people have arrived in Cambodia by land, sea or air, a growth of 1.6 percent compared to a year earlier.
The number of travellers from Vietnam was up 45.86 percent in November, taking advantage of relaxed visa rules, while at the opposite end, some 26.99 percent fewer Koreans came to the Kingdom. Koreans were the largest group of arrivals in 2008.
There was also a significant decrease in visitors from Thailand, Australia and the United Kingdom.
Opening the skies
Luu Meng, president of the Cambodian Hotel Association, said that the lack of direct flights made it difficult for tourists to book trips to the Kingdom.
“We don’t have enough airlines making enough flights to meet the demands of tourists,” he said. “People are still coming, but from Vietnam and Laos.
“If the government increases direct flights from foreign countries, not only will the number of tourists rise, but it will also create jobs in the industry,” he said.
The government is actively promoting open-skies agreements with different nations, Thong Khon said, adding that four new agreements allowing direct flights with Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the Philippines had been reached in 2009.
“We will have more access on air routes next year as we make agreements with more countries,” he said.
Cebu Pacific Air is expected to be the first Philippine carrier flying direct to Cambodia, aiming for a launch date in March or April next year and direct flights between Russia and Cambodia are set to begin by 2011.
Delegates from two Russian carriers will meet Cambodian authorities at the end of January to finalise an open-skies agreement between, Russian embassy councillor Dilvara Borovic said Sunday.
Mao Havannal, Secretary of State of Civil Aviation, said he advocated an increase in the number of direct flights.
“I believe that our current airlines do not connect us enough to the world. That’s why we’re trying to open the skies with other countries,” Mao Havannal said.