With Cambodia’s three international airports welcoming a greater number of flights and a heavier flow of foot traffic, the company managing the airports has been busy expanding their retail, culinary and lounge portfolio to give passengers even more options to shop, dine or relax before their flight.
Cambodia Airports, a subsidiary of France’s Vinci Airports, completed a major expansion to the terminals at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports last year and is nearing completion of renovations to the terminal of Sihanoukville’s airport.
The larger terminals offered a chance to add more services, and both local and global brands have vied to be represented.
But the selection process is anything but haphazard. Cambodia Airports has pored over applications to select a lineup suitable for every taste and budget.
“We have to strike the right balance between essential international names, luxury duty free and Cambodian brands,” Chloé Lapeyre, director of Phnom Penh International Airport, stated on the Vinci website.
Lars Crone, managing director of EMCAT Cambodia, the Singapore-based owner of food and beverage operator Sajibumi Cambodia, said his company has used the expanded airport space to diversify its line up of food and beverage brands. Founded in 2010, EMCAT now operates 26 different food vendors in Cambodia’s three international airports, including cafes and restaurants located both before and after the airport security check.
Crone said the extensive refurbishment of Phnom Penh’s terminal gave EMCAT a perfect opportunity for its latest project: a massive food court in the arrivals area of the airport, complete with fast food, fresh market and sit-down options. The food court is due to open in mid-June.
“This food court is meant to accommodate the growth of passengers that Cambodia is seeing,” he said. “In just the first quarter of 2018, we have seen a 30 percent growth in passengers in Phnom Penh and an 18 percent increase in Siem Reap.”
He said the food court would include several Chinese restaurants to serve the rising number of Chinese passengers that pass through the airport each year.
China was the top country of origin for visitors to Cambodia in 2017, with 1.2 million visits last year, a staggering 46 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Ministry of Tourism. But there has also been a sizeable increase in other nationalities visiting the Kingdom in recent years, with inbound tourism growing an overall 11.8 percent in 2017.
This positive trajectory has encouraged EMCAT to increase the variety of airport dining options at Cambodia’s airports to rival the options available at even some of Southeast Asia’s biggest airports.
“I’m proud to say that what we will have to offer in Phnom Penh soon will be more options than even in Bangkok.” Crone said, adding that a point was made to incorporate several homegrown brands into the roster. “There are two really big locally developed brands – Brown and Park Cafe – and we have both of them.”
The recent terminal expansions also saw the arrival of premium amenities, including business lounges operated by Plaza Premium Group. The Hong Kong-based premium airport services provider opened its first lounge in Phnom Penh airport in early 2016 and another in Siem Reap airport months later. The independently operated lounges are open to all travellers for a fee, and also offer spa and shower facilities, as well as meet-and-greet services.
The company is now looking to open its third lounge in Sihanoukville’s airport terminal, currently under renovation.
Retail options have grown too, with more shops and a wider selection of goods. Swiss travel retailer Dufry has used the expanded terminals to grow its footprint in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports. The larger stores were designed with the walk-through concept by which passengers must pass through the stores as they proceed to the departure gates.
Ly Kitty, a businesswoman and vice president of the Young Entrepreneurs Association of Cambodia, said duty-free retail in the Kingdom’s airports has become a rapidly expanding – and extremely promising – market, especially for local investors.
“It will be very profitable, I’m sure of it,” she said, adding that several of her fellow business owners were in the process of establishing partnerships with international companies to have their products displayed in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports.
She said the rise in tourism, paired with the recent airport refurbishments, had made airport retail an opportunity that was difficult for businesses to ignore.
“People have to go to airports, they don’t have a choice not to go, if they are travelling,” she said. “So wherever there is an airport, there will be good sales.”