Royal Air Cambodge on Sunday will launch a daily Siem Reap-Bangkok flight, becoming the second carrier to operate daily flights on the route.
The airline has been doing occasional charters between Bangkok and Siem Reap since June. But last week Thailand gave RAC permission to begin daily charter flights, an airline spokesman said Thursday. Bangkok Airways also flies the route.
RAC will use a 66-seat ATR-72, which will fly from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and then to Bangkok every morning, returning in the early evening.
A round trip ticket between Siem Reap and Bangkok will cost $280, according to the spokesman. Until Dec 20, prices on the Phnom Penh to Siem Reap leg will run $39 one way as a special promotion.
The launch of the new service comes as Cambodian tourism enters its high season. Tour operators remain hopeful this period will be better than this time last year, when the industry was still reeling from factional fighting.
According to the Tourism Ministry, tourism is improving. While arrivals in the first nine months are down 23 percent compared with last year, third quarter statistics show a 50 percent increase over the same period in 1997.
Tourism officials and industry members said Thursday the RAC direct flights will help and they downplayed any negative impact on tourism in Phnom Penh.
“European tourists, especially the French, want to visit Angkor Wat, of course,” said Meng Phala of PI Travel, “but they also want to see the capital.”
Bangkok Airways direct flights to Siem Reap in the first nine months of 1998 brought nearly 8,000 people to the town—about 33 percent of Siem Reap’s visitors.
“The Bangkok flights have been good for us,” said Le Grand d’Angkor hotel General Manager Gilbert Madhaven. “We see the [RAC flights] as a good thing.”
Tourism Secretary of State Thong Khon said Thursday that only RAC and Bangkok Airways will be permitted to fly the route. Other airlines, including Thailand’s Angel Airlines, are interested in Siem Reap flights.
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