Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday said that the kingdom will soon be serviced by two new international airports, confirming the construction of new airfields in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
Mr Hun Sen’s announcement comes days after the Council of Ministers formally approved on Friday the construction of a new airport in Kandal province that will service the capital.
During a speech in front of garment workers in Phnom Penh’s Por Senchey district, the premier said that with the rapid expansion in foreign arrivals set to continue in coming years, the government needs to make sure the country has the necessary infrastructure to handle the surge in tourist numbers.
“2017 was a year of remarkable growth, and 2018 will also be a great year in terms of the economy,” Mr Hun Sen said. “The agriculture and industry sectors are performing very well. Meanwhile, foreign tourist arrivals continue to increase. Last year, we were visited by 5.6 million people.
“We are a small country but we receive a lot of foreign tourists. We need to have a long-term plan to deal with this rapid growth in tourists.
“The new airports in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh are necessary because our existing airports don’t have the capacity to handle the number of passengers we expect in coming years,” he said.
Phnom Penh’s new airport will actually be located in Kandal province’s Takhmao city. It will cover 2,600 hectares of land.
The total cost of the new airport is $1.5 billion. Up to $1.1 billion will come from loans from overseas banking institutions, while the Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation, a local conglomerate, will contribute $280 million. The remaining $120 million will come from public funds.
The airport in Siem Reap will be managed by China-owned Yunnan Investment Holding Ltd under a 55-year build-operate-transfer (BOT) concession. It will be built over 700 hectares of land in Sotr Nikom district, 50 kilometres outside Siem Reap city.
Tek Reth Samrach, Secretary of State of the Council of Ministers, told Khmer Times yesterday that the existing airports in the kingdom don’t have the capacity to deal with the projected surge in passengers, and that they lack the physical space needed to expand further.
“The government wants better infrastructure to boost economic growth. But, if you look at our airports, you can see there is no more space for them to keep expanding. We need new airports,” he said.
Since 1995, Cambodia Airports, a French company, has had a 45-year concession to manage the three international airports in the kingdom – Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.
The company has invested around $200 million in upgrading facilities and expanding the airports, according to company representatives.
Norinda Khek, communications director at Societe Concessionnaire de l’Aeroport (SCA), the airport operator, told Khmer Times that, in their current state, Cambodia’s international airports will be able to cope with visitor numbers until the year 2020, when it is projected that 7 million international tourist will visit the kingdom.
“There is significant room for further expansion. However, we have already initiated a dialogue with Cambodian authorities in case actual traffic exceeds projections,” he said.
Siem Reap’s new airport will break ground “very soon”, while a date has yet to be announced for the start of construction work for Phnom Penh’s new airfield, according to Mr Samrach.