Aviation Growth Bolstered by Chinese Visitors

Cambodia’s aviation market grew briskly for the second consecutive year as national and foreign airlines added routes to China amid a surge in Chinese nationals visiting the country, according to a report released Tuesday by Sydney-based Center for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA).

In 2013, Cambodia recorded an 18 percent increase in passenger arrivals as Cambodia’s three commercial airports handled 5.1 million passengers, an increase on the 4.3 million arrivals in 2012, according to data from Cambodia Airports, which operates the Phnom Penh, Siem reap and Sihanoukville airports.

Although Vietnamese nationals, many of whom visit by road, still account for the majority of visitors to the country, Chinese visitors have emerged as the “biggest growth driver for Cambodia’s aviation market,” the CAPA report states.

The number of Chinese visitors to Cambodia in the first 11 months of last year was 417,261, a 40.1 percent increase compared to the same period in 2012, accounting for 11 percent of all international visitor arrivals, according to figures from the Ministry of Tourism.

Mirroring that growth, total scheduled airline seat capacity between Cambodia and China has increased more than 50 percent over the last year, according to data from CAPA and U.K.-based airline information company OAG.

Local carrier Cambodia Angkor Air has been keen to capitalize on the boost in Chinese visitors, launching five China routes in the last several months with a sixth planned to Fuzhou, Fujian province, on February 1.

The rapid expansion is “based on the forecast about a great boom of Chinese tourists and business people coming to Cambodia in the next few years,” the airline says on its website.

“Cambodia Angkor Air will capture an estimated 19 percent share of the scheduled Cambodia-China market in April 2014, up from about 14 percent and zero just a few months ago,” the CAPA report states.

In February, Spring Airlines launched a Shanghai service and in October and December, Dragonair and Air China began flights from Hong Kong and Beijing respectively.

Kong Sopheareak, director of the planning and statistics department at the Ministry of tourism, said the influx of Chinese visitors was due to tourism and investment opportunities.

The ministry hopes to attract even more Chinese visitors as “they bring in a lot of revenue,” Mr. Sopheareak said.

According to a draft plan released in June, the Tourism Ministry aims to attract 1.3 million Chinese visitors by 2018. The 35-page plan proposes a beefed-up marketing campaign in China, even more flights, and the establishment of a new “Chinatown” in Phnom Penh.

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