Nearly $700 million has been spent on the new $1.5 billion Techo International Airport (TIA), the main construction work on which has reached 46 per cent as of March 31, motivated by positive tourism growth, according to a senior civil aviation official.

Slated to serve Phnom Penh, TIA is developed by Cambodia Airport Investment Co Ltd (CAIC), a joint venture between Overseas Cambodian Investment Corp Ltd (OCIC) and the government – through the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA). Phase I of the airport is expected to be finished in 2024.

SSCA spokesman and undersecretary of state Sinn Chanserey Vutha told The Post on April 10 that work is also underway on supporting infrastructure. “We are professional and experienced, and are seeing to it that the secondary infrastructure that supports the airport – such as roads, plumbing and electricity – is not a problem.

“The airport would not be able to operate without road connections and other infrastructure,” he stressed.

When asked about development in the area near TIA, Chanserey Vutha speculated that economic activity would spontaneously emerge following the airport’s inauguration, and disclosed that the economic impacts of the airport at varying radii – particularly 5km, 10km and 20km – have been studied at length. “Economic benefits are a certainty,” he stated.

Estimates for the number of international visitors to Cambodia in 2023 can be as high as 4.5 million, or nearly 70 per cent of the all-time high of 6.611 million recorded by the Ministry of Tourism in 2019, before Covid-19 wreaked havoc on the world. “But everything is just a prediction,” Chanserey Vutha said with a dose of realism.

“In my opinion, things will get better,” he said, praising the ministry for its strategies, action plans and campaigns to attract tourists and raise figures from their Covid lows.

Meanwhile, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) predicts that, thanks to a more robust tourism recovery, Cambodia’s economy could grow about 5.5 per cent this year, before accelerating to 6.0 per cent in 2024.

“Cambodia’s economy grew by an estimated 5.2 per cent in 2022, owing primarily to rising external demand for Cambodian products and tourism services, which led to a revival of demand for food and accommodation, and growth in local trade, transport, and communications subsectors,” the ADB said in a statement last week, citing its April 2023 Asian Development Outlook (ADO).

The tourism ministry put the number of international arrivals to the Kingdom in 2022 at nearly 2.277 million, representing a 65.56 per cent drop from 2019, but nonetheless an increase by a factor of 11.59 over 2021, as travel demand rebounded.

Of the total international visitors, the majority had their purpose of visit marked as “holiday”, at 1.767 million or 77.60 per cent, followed by “business” (431,000; 18.93%) and “others” (79,049; 3.47%).