Since 2017, Emirates Airlines has operated direct flights between Dubai and Phnom Penh. Now, Talal Al Gergawi, Emirates manager for Cambodia, sits down with Khmer Times to talks over its business operations and his views of the future plans of the company.
Khmer Times: Emirates started direct flights to Cambodia in 2017. Could you tell me about the progress of your business performance so far?
Talal: When we started operations in Cambodia we did so after doing due diligence and conducting plenty of research so we therefore were confident there was demand in the market for quality travel options and experiences. Not only was there demand for international routes but for regional travel as well. We planned to build a relationship with our customer base as the demand for travel between the UAE and Cambodia grew. Within a short time, we had a great response from our customers and, faster than we expected, more and more people wanted to fly with us.
In fact, within the first year of operations, we had already connected more than 70,000 people from the two countries, initially when we flew from Dubai to Phnom Penh via Yangon. The response was even more positive when we started flying from Phnom Penh to Bangkok, Thailand, last year, meeting the demand for travel between these two destinations as well as travel to Dubai and beyond. We were excited about this new route because our customer profile on this route allowed us to introduce our First Class service in Cambodia last year which was a big milestone for us. We are growing rapidly in the market and will continue to invest in our offerings to provide the best experience for our passengers.
Khmer Times: Cambodia has more than 40 airlines operating and serving a lot of destinations including to UAE. Because you are one of the airlines to Cambodia, how do you feel about the competition?
Talal: We have only been in Cambodia for close to two years, but we are growing fast. When Emirates came to Cambodia, not only did we want to connect more people together from this great nation to many others but we also wanted to revolutionise the way people travelled onboard.
Competition is good for the airline and importantly good for the customers. First and foremost, it boosts Cambodia’s economy, which is very good for the country. Second, it creates a better environment for the passenger because they have more options and they can choose what they think is best. And, finally, It ensures that we never get complacent; it keeps us on our toes and helps us strive for excellence for our customers. We continue to invest to enhance the travel experience of our passengers. We constantly innovate to introduce industry-leading and unique travel experiences that meet the ever-changing needs of travellers.
Khmer Times: Now you only fly directly to Phnom Penh International Airport. Recently, Qatar Airways announced a new Doha-Siem Reap flight route which will commence in November this year. Do you have any plans to start your direct flights to Siem Reap, the main tourism site in Cambodia?
Talal: We do notice that Siem Reap is one of the main tourist sites in the country but if you analyse the inbound and outbound international travel in the country, we still see that Phnom Penh airport has the largest passenger count and that’s why we started our first route to the city in Cambodia so that we could learn more about how we could facilitate travel between Cambodia and the rest of the world in a better way.
Having said that, we are continuously analysing the market, travel habits and where there is demand and, based on this, we choose to add new destinations to our network.
Khmer Times: Last year, many foreign airlines shifted and started direct flights to Sihanoukville province, where the passenger traffic increased by 158 percent last year. Will you consider starting flights there?
Talal: Emirates is always reviewing market opportunities in Cambodia. As I mentioned before, for now, we are focused on growing and expanding our reach in Phnom Penh before we expand to other airports in Cambodia itself. Nonetheless, we are always analysing and studying the market to gain insight on how we can better serve our passengers.
Khmer Times: What are the changing trends in the flow of tourists and investment from UAE to Cambodia? And from Cambodia to UAE?
Talal: Cambodia is one of the world’s most dynamic and fast-growing economies. Recent growth and infrastructure development in Cambodia has helped it become an economic engine and an important tourism destination in the region.
There is certainly a very strong and consistent upward trend in the flow of tourists in both directions. More people in the UAE are noticing Cambodia’s rich and vibrant culture with a fun and exciting twist. In fact, Cambodia had the third-largest growth in tourist numbers in 2019.
Although we can see that a large portion of Cambodia’s tourists are coming from Asia we also noticed that tourist traffic from the UAE is increasing steadily and will rise to a much higher level in the coming years.
On the other side, we can also see that many Cambodians are also choosing to travel abroad to new destinations for different experiences and we believe that by giving them a direct connection between the two countries we are also helping to slowly increase the number of tourists from Cambodia to the UAE.
We are proud of how far Cambodia has come and we hope to connect even more Cambodian people to the rest of the world – and the world to Cambodia – in comfort and style.
Khmer Times: What do you think about the relations between the two countries?
Talal: The relationship between the two countries has certainly grown a lot and has only accelerated since Emirates started flying here. We see that both people from the UAE and Cambodia have had many great opportunities to connect and interact thus driving trade and partnerships among the two countries that we will only see an increase over the next few years.
Cambodia is rapidly becoming a regionally and globally significant destination for both tourism and business. Our business class and economy class products are second to none and, increasing, demand impels us to maintain innovation in our product offerings and to remain competitive by expanding choices available to our customers.
Our hub in Dubai helps connect Emirates’ customers to more than 159 destinations in 85 countries and territories across six continents and so it only made sense for Emirates to include a vibrant Asian city and upcoming economic powerhouse such as Phnom Penh to our list of global destinations.
Khmer Times: Does your airline have any promotional tourism packages with low costs to attract more Cambodians to visit your country?
Talal: Our fares are considered competitive, but we remain committed to providing our customers with excellent services and a strong value-for-money proposition. Emirates offers a variety of offers throughout the year depending on market forces.
Khmer Times: What are the Emirates’ expansion plans in Cambodia in the years to come?
Talal: Our plan is to stay focused and deliver the best possible services to our customers by investing in our people, our products and continued innovation. We want to continue connecting Cambodian people to Dubai and the rest of the world and vice versa.
The comfort and reputation of Emirates will not only entice travellers to fly Emirates but to also explore the historic and heritage sites in Cambodia.