Cambodia has experienced a surge in air travel during the first three quarters of 2023, with nearly 3.7 million air arrivals, marking a 162% increase compared to the same period last year. There has been a corresponding uptick in flight activity, exceeding 37,000 flights during the same timeframe, according to a report from the State Secretariat of Civil Information (SSCA).

The SSCA data indicated that between January and September, the nation’s three international airports collectively welcomed 3,685,354 passengers, a 162% growth from the previous year.

Phnom Penh International Airport (PHN) received 2,904,755 air arrivals, while then-Siem Reap International Airport (REP) and Preah Sihanouk International Airport (KOS) reported figures of 740,884 and 39,715 passengers, respectively.

PHN handled 40,436 tonnes of cargo and REP managed 143 tonnes, while the cargo volume for KOS remains undisclosed.

Sinn Chanserey Vutha, an undersecretary of state and spokesperson for the SSCA, told The Post over the weekend about the growth in both domestic and international air visitors to the country.

In the first nine months of 2023, air arrivals saw an increase of over 160%, accompanied by 37,200 flights, reflecting a 103% rise compared to the corresponding period last year. Transit goods, however, experienced a slight decrease of more than 6%, totaling more than 41,000 tonnes.

Addressing the welcoming ceremony for the first commercial flight to the new Siem Reap Angkor International Airport (SAI) on October 16, SSCA chief Mao Havannall said that an average of 850 flights per week are now departing and arriving at the three international airports for both domestic and international passengers.

He noted that 30 domestic and foreign airlines are providing reconnecting flights to ASEAN nations and other countries and territories including mainland China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Qatar.

“Overall, we can say that air transport activity in Cambodia has returned to nearly 50% of its 2019 levels before the Covid-19 crisis,” he said.

Minister of Tourism Sok Soken, speaking at the ceremony, emphasised the important role of the government’s strategic plans related to infrastructure development and human resource training in attracting more foreign investors and visitors.

He also unveiled the ministry’s new strategies aimed at enhancing aesthetics and providing a comfortable and secure environment for visitors from all regions as the country aspires to become a globally competitive, sustainable and inclusive tourism destination.

“What we are witnessing at [SAI] is a strategically significant achievement in bolstering the essential infrastructure for Cambodia’s economy, particularly our tourism sector,” stated Soken.

According to the ministry, Cambodia welcomed a total of 3.5 million foreign visitors from January to August, registering a 250.8% increase compared to the same period in 2022. However, this figure remains 19.7% lower than the record-high foreign visitor numbers in the same period of 2019, just before the pandemic.

Among these visitors, Thailand emerged as the top source of tourists, with 1,186,999 arrivals, followed by Vietnam (641,758), China (364,844), Laos (212,984) and several other countries including the US, South Korea, Indonesia and France.