China’s Shandong Airlines is planning to launch direct flights between Shandong province and Cambodia on Monday, the latest venture to capitalize on growing tourist numbers as China seeks to “secure a positive influence” in the region.
The flights, which are pending approval from State Secretariat for Civil Aviation (SSCA), will link the provincial capital of Jinan to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap City with twice-weekly service starting September 15, SSCA spokesman Sin Chansereyvutha said Monday.
If successful, the airline will be the ninth Chinese carrier to operate flights to Cambodia, following Xiamen Airlines in June.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, 240,657 Chinese nationals visited Cambodia during the first five months of the year, a 18.9 percent increase compared to the same period in 2013.
“The relationship between China and Cambodia is close, and the increase in flights is part of this cooperation between the countries,” Mr. Chansereyvutha said.
Also poised to enter the market this year are two Chinese-backed Cambodian charter operators, Bassaka Air and Cambodia Bayon Airlines, which are scheduled to begin offering flights to China this month and in December, respectively, according to the Sydney-based Center for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA).
“Chinese investors have recognized there is a huge opportunity to start an airline in Cambodia and cater to the inbound Chinese market,” a report released by CAPA in July says.
“Cambodian authorities are taking the right approach in actively promoting Cambodia in the Chinese market and being receptive to Chinese-backed Cambodian charter start-up carriers,” it says.
In a report released Monday, CAPA said the ease of operating an airline in Cambodia, where there are limited restrictions on foreign ownership, makes the country a prime investment destination in “a contested region diplomatically,” where “China is eager to secure a positive influence.”