China, Thailand Drive Annual Growth at Airports

Passengers from China and Thailand are driving double-digit annual growth in Cambodia’s airport traffic, according to a report released on Thursday by the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation.

A total of 6.47 million travelers passed through Cambodia’s three international airports in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap City and Sihanoukville last year, a 13 percent increase from 2014—and the sixth successive year of double-digit growth.

Passengers walk toward the check-in counter at Phnom Penh International Airport on Thursday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Passengers walk toward the check-in counter at Phnom Penh International Airport on Thursday.
(Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“China has been the biggest driver…with Chinese visitor numbers increasing by at least 20 percent for six consecutive years,” the report says.

“Capacity on the traditional route to Bangkok, the main gateway for long-haul passengers heading to or from Cambodia, has also grown over the last year.”

Sinn Chanserey Vutha, deputy director-general of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said a swelling middle class in China, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos was behind the growing number of tourists and businesspeople visiting the country.

“We have seen that middle-income populations have expanded globally and throughout the region,” he said. “Although China’s economy has slowed down, we have not seen any signals of a decrease in Chinese visitors just yet.”

The report also notes an increase in seat capacity for flights to and from China and Thailand, thanks to the launch of new airlines and more frequent scheduled flights. And a 20 percent growth in the seat capacity for flights between Cambodia and Thailand has made Thailand Cambodia’s largest international market, although a significant portion of this growth is due to connecting flights in Bangkok, it adds.

The report predicts, however, that overall growth in air traffic will slow in the coming years. 2016, it says, will likely be the first year that Cambodia fails to reach double digits. The growth in international passenger traffic to Siem Reap—driven primarily by tourists —has already begun to slow in recent years, and in 2015 reached its lowest level since 2009.

Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said this slowdown could be further exacerbated by economic problems in China.

“I think the slowing of China’s economy will affect air traffic to Cambodia toward the end of this year,” he said.

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