Siem Reap provincial authorities anticipate an influx of Chinese tourists following the recent memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed with China’s Liaoning province.

The agreement aims to bolster the economy, trade and cultural exchanges between the two provinces and coincides with the launch of the new Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport (SAI).

Provincial council chairman Ean Khun and deputy provincial governor Neak Neron met with a visiting delegation from Dalian, a major port city in Liaoning, during a signing ceremony on November 6 at Siem Reap Provincial Hall.

The delegation was headed by Wang Tianwei, chairman of the Standing Committee of the Dalian City People’s Assembly, according to a city hall press release.

Khun said the agreement will enhance cooperation in various sectors including economy, trade, culture, education, health and sports, facilitating study tours and experience sharing to improve the proficiency of officials in both provinces.

“Investors and Chinese nationals are increasingly choosing to invest in Cambodia, particularly in Siem Reap, which is rich in tourism and agricultural potential. The MoU will strengthen cultural ties and development across diverse sectors, leading to greater prosperity,” he said.

He also mentioned that Siem Reap has existing collaborations with 30 provinces and cities in China, structured through nine MoUs, six formal agreements and 15 initiative letters.

Wang highlighted the sister-province relationship between Dalian and Siem Reap, noting that the MoU focuses on several key areas, including agriculture, tourism and trade.

He emphasised Dalian’s economic strength and geographical advantage, with direct flights bolstering travel and development for both regions.

Sinn Chanserey Vutha, spokesperson for the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), said that since the soft launch of SAI, daily international tourist arrivals have risen to an average of 2,700, marking a significant uptick.

He noted that ASEAN and China currently dominate these numbers, with 75% of total visitors to SAI. European travelers account for the remaining 25%.

“We anticipate that during the winter season of 2023, spanning from the end of October to March 2024, SAI will see an increase to 40 flights per week. Additionally, the number of airlines operating is expected to grow to nine or 10 companies,” he said.

SAI currently handles 38 flights daily, an increase of four from the previous week, with the majority originating from ASEAN countries and China. There are seven airlines that operate to and from the airport, comprising six international and one local carrier, as per the SSCA.