Some 22 Japanese companies are considering investing in projects within or surrounding the under-construction Techo International Airport (TIA), Cambodia’s largest once completed. Any potential investments, insiders said, are likely to seize on the gradual recovery of the tourism sector, which was hard-hit by the spread of Covid-19 in the past few years.

Sinn Chansereyvutha, undersecretary of state at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), told The Post on December 25 that representatives of the Japanese firms paid a visit to the site of the airport, located in Kandal province’s Takhmao town, around 40km south of Phnom Penh, on December 20 to assess its potential and examine the progress of construction.

He explained that TIA, which broke ground in 2019, will be the country’s largest airport once completed, covering a total of 2,800ha near the border of Takeo province. As of December, construction is 58 per cent complete, with completion of the first phase due in mid-2024 and operations in 2025.

“The recent visit of Prime Minister Hun Manet to Japan was also key point which attracted the attention of Japanese investors. They plan to invest in projects within and surrounding the new airport,” he said.

“The Cambodia Airport Investment [CAIC] organised the visit by some 22 Japanese companies, which gave them the opportunity to examine it closely and make a decision regarding their participation in investing in the facility,” he said.

CAIC is a joint venture between the state-run SSCA and the Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation (OCIC), the locally-run conglomerate behind the airport construction, with ownership set up on a 90:10 basis, according to the OCIC website. 

Thourn Sinan, president of the Asia-Pacific Tourism Association (PATA) Cambodia Chapter, said the presence of TIA will be crucial for Cambodia’s aviation development, as it can handle direct long-haul flights from many major destinations around the world.

“We expect that once the airport is online, we will be able to welcome new long-haul flights directly to the Kingdom. The number of tourist arrivals will gradually improve once the airport is finished, as it will play an important role in welcoming new flights,” he added.

According to Vutha, the first phase of construction is being carried out at a cost of $800 million.

At present, the passenger terminal, being built by China Construction Unit III (CCTEB), is 47 per cent complete. The parking lot, under the management of Shanghai Baoye (Cambodia) Co Ltd, is 52 per cent finished. The air traffic control tower is being constructed by Cana Sino Construction Corporation (CSCC) and is now 90.8 per cent complete. 

“If nothing changes, the project will be completed by the end of 2024,” he said.

“We expect the airport to open in the first half of 2025 because we need pilot testing and certification before we can accept flights,” he added.

SSCA data revealed that between January and September, the nation’s three international airports collectively welcomed 3,685,354 passengers, a 162% increase on the previous year.

Phnom Penh International Airport (PHN) received 2,904,755 arrivals, while the then-Siem Reap International Airport (REP) and Keng Kang International Airport (KOS) in coastal Preah Sihanouk province logged 740,884 and 39,715 passengers, respectively.

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

Cambodia welcomed over 4 million foreign guests in the first 10 months of 2023, an increase of 179.7% compared to the same period in 2022. Of these, 63.1% were from three countries: Thailand accounted for 1 million (34.1% of total foreign visitors), an increase of 154.3%; Vietnam followed with 825,970 (18.7%), rising by 141.5%; and China with 453,562 (10.3%), expanding by 497.5%.