Pochentong Airport’s general manager on Friday urged the government to end direct flights to Siem Reap from Bangkok, warning that the policy could discourage future foreign investment in Cambodia.
Speaking at a tourism industry meeting, Cambodia Airport Management Services Director General Eric Chalon said the decision to allow the flights, which violated his company’s contract with the government, sends a bad message to investors.
“Pochentong is a very visible symbol of international investment, and if we want the confidence of international investors, there need to be clear rules.”
Dumez GTM, of which CAMS is the commercial management arm, signed a deal with the government in 1995 to upgrade Pochentong. The contract included a clause making Pochentong Cambodia’s sole international air gateway for 20 years. But after the factional fighting in July 1997, with tourism growth ground to a halt, the two prime ministers suggested allowing international flights to Siem Reap, bypassing Phnom Penh.
The move at the time was announced as a temporary measure, Chalon said, but nearly a year later, there is no indication that the government may end Bangkok Airways’ daily flights.
Tourism Secretary of State Thong Khon said the government is studying whether to allow Bangkok Airways to continue its charter flights between Bangkok and Siem Reap. But he said the move so far has proved to have been a good one, bringing a large number of tourists to Cambodia with little negative effect on Phnom Penh—one of the main concerns expressed by hotel and tour operators when the announcement was made.
According to Tourism Ministry statistics, about 4,600 visitors arrived in Siem Reap on the charter flights during the first half of the year, about 5 percent of total tourist arrivals.
Work on Pochentong’s rehabilitation, which was suspended last July shortly after the fighting, resumed in May, Chalon said.
Projects planned to be completed by mid-1999 include an upgrade of the runway to accommodate larger planes, installation of an instrument landing system to make it easier to land during bad weather, improved lighting, a power plant and a new fire station.