Cambodia and Türkiye are accelerating efforts to establish direct flights between the two countries as soon as possible, although analysts acknowledged that discussions have been ongoing for several years.

The latest attempt was made during a May 29 official visit by Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sok Chenda Sophea to Türkiye. The minister met with several Turkish leaders for talks on different fields of cooperation.

“On trade and investment, both sides agreed on the need for direct flights between Türkiye and Cambodia. Türkiye will endeavour to encourage Turkish Airlines to begin direct flights as soon as possible to facilitate trade, investment, and tourism,” said a May 31 foreign ministry press release.

“The two sides acknowledged vast potential for future investment in areas such as agro-industry, education, food processing, green energy development and tourism,” it added. 

This year marks the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Kingdom and Türkiye.

Chenda Sophea highlighted the “excellent” relations between the two countries, but noted that the annual trade volume between the two countries is less than $1 billion, despite the best efforts of the leaders of both countries to increase it beyond this mark since 2018.

He suggested that the Türkish side view Cambodia as part of a vast Southeast Asian market of more than 650 million people, with connections to a network of regional and bilateral trade agreements, such as the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), as well as Cambodia's free-trade agreements with China and South Korea.

Top Sopheak, spokesperson for the Ministry of Tourism, told The Post that direct flights between Türkiye and Cambodia, when in effect, will increase the number of Turkish arrivals. In the first quarter of the year, 2,480 Turkish guests had arrived in the Kingdom.

“If there is a direct flight, it will be convenient for tourists from Türkiye and its neighbouring countries to fly to Cambodia. Direct connections are important because they reduce costs and save time for passengers,” he said. 

Thuon Sinan, president of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia, also saw the large benefits of possible direct flights between the two nations, but noted that talks have been taking place for many years already, with no sign of a new route opening anytime soon.

"Türkiye is a hub which connects the Middle East and Europe, both in terms of business and aviation. When people fly to Europe, many of them transit through Türkiye,” he said.

“Therefore, direct flights with Türkiye would provide a link between Cambodia and the Middle East and the EU, as well as the US and Canada,” he added.

He urged the kingdom to formulate a clear strategy to make their efforts realistic.

Sopheak, however, explained that the tourism ministry is making strong efforts to make the flights a reality, but noted that the process was not quick and easy.

“It is not something we can do right away, as there are many conditions which need to be met before direct flights can be established. We are still striving to improve our tourism sector,” he added.

According to The tourism ministry’s statistics department, so far this year, 1.58 million international tourists arrived in Cambodia, an increase of 22.5 per cent compared to the same period last year. 

In the same period, 6,488 international flights were recorded, with between 500 and 510 flights per week. 

At present 30 airlines land in the Kingdom, according to the statistics department.