Cambodia: Kingdom urged to develop new air transport markets

Cambodia will need to develop new air transport markets and reduce its reliance on multi-country itineraries to resume growth and justify airport infrastructure investments, according to a recent study.

Cambodia was one of the fastest-growing air transport markets in Southeast Asia pre-pandemic and has big ambitions for growth in the post-pandemic era, ADB SEAD’s ‘Landscape Study on Southeast Asia’s Aviation Industry: COVID-19 Impact and Post-Pandemic Strategy’ said.

It said inbound international is the dominant traffic segment for Cambodia and was the primary growth driver in the decade pre-pandemic.

“In 2019, international visitor arrivals accounted for 88 percent of international traffic in Cambodia, with a nearly 100 percent share at Siem Reap (1.7 million) and Sihanoukville (700,000), and an over 80 percent share at the capital Phnom Penh (1.7 million). In 2009, inbound international was similarly dominant,

but Siem Reap had 600,000 international visitors and Phnom Penh 500,000, while Sihanoukville only had domestic services,” the report noted.

Meanwhile, Cambodia received 1.29 million international visitors in the first quarter, a remarkable increase of 709 percent from 159,546 over the same period in 2022.

According to a report from the Ministry of Tourism recently, Thailand, Vietnam, and China were the top three tourism markets, with 424,241 Thais, 207,527 Vietnamese, and 132,665 Chinese visiting the country during the period.

However, according to the study, the China visitor market was the main driver growing nearly twentyfold from 2009−2019 pre-pandemic. It accounted for nearly half of all international passengers in Cambodia in 2019, the landscape study observed.

Regarding Cambodia’s air transport prospects, it said: “Cambodia has close economic ties to the PRC and should again attract visitors from there when there is a return of PRC outbound tourists. But it could take a few years for the Cambodia−PRC market to reach 2019 levels.”

“China is one of the most important outbound tourism markets for the world, so China’s resumption of outbound tourism is very beneficial not only to Cambodia, but also to the whole world,” Tourism Minister Thong Khon said last month.

Considering the significance of China market, Cambodia will also need to find other source markets that will require significantly better connectivity, it pointed out.

Pre-pandemic, Cambodia was connected to 14 markets, all within Asia. The PRC dominated, accounting for 38 percent of the total international seat capacity. The PRC, Hong Kong, China; Macau, China; and Taipei, China accounted for 47 percent—which markets have taken longer to reopen and will take some time to recover.

“Chinese tourists accounted for a considerable percentage of Cambodia’s international tourist arrivals prior to the Covid-19 crisis and the country continued to receive them towards the very peak period of the pandemic,” CATA President Chhay Sivlin told Khmer Times.

It said Cambodia is connected to eight Southeast Asian countries. Only Brunei Darussalam and Timor-Leste do not have nonstop connections with Cambodia. The study pointed out that some of the Southeast Asian markets have limited services, particularly Indonesia and the Philippines. There are opportunities to develop the smaller Southeast Asian markets as well as to continue to grow services to the region’s main hub airports.

It said Cambodia can look at the possibilities of developing services to India and growing the Japan and Republic of Korea markets. There are limited services to Japan, while the Republic of Korea is a relatively large market with the potential for further growth, it observed.

“Australia, Europe, and North America are also important source markets. They are more mature and have traditionally included Cambodia as part of multi-country itineraries, which have become less popular during the pandemic. Cambodia will need to invest in single-destination marketing to attract more long-haul tourists. New long-haul services would facilitate growth in these markets but will be hard to attract,” the study said.

ADB will hold two webinars that will present key findings from the study as well as an update on the aviation sector’s recovery. The webinars will be held on June 15
and 16.

Source: https://www.khmertimeskh.com/501302831/kingdom-urged-to-develop-new-air-transport-markets/