Ruili Airlines, a Chinese low-cost airline based in Southwestern China’s Yunnan province, will start operating from Phnom Penh International Airport by the end of the year, with other Chinese and Malaysian air carriers following on its footsteps and starting to fly to the kingdom by the start of 2018.
Amid government efforts to increase the number of Chinese tourists to the country, more Chinese airlines are showing an interest in the Cambodian market, adding new routes to their fights connecting the East Asian giant to the kingdom.
Sichuan Airlines and Shenzhen Airlines are expected to start flying to Cambodia by the beginning of next year, while Malindo Air, a Malaysia-based budget airline, will join the market around the same time, according to Nuno Costa, marketing and sales director for Cambodia Airports, the company that manages the country’s three international airports.
“We will finalise some other deals by next year, so there won’t be a lack of airlines in Cambodia; the market here is really booming,” Mr Costa said.
Sin Chansereyvutha, spokesman for the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said more airlines is always good news for Cambodia’s fledgling aviation market.
“The new players in the market are good indication of the growth in the sector,” Mr Chansereyvutha said. “More competition means more options for travellers, who can travel with more competitive fares.”
Malindo Air suspended its flights in Cambodia in July after receiving its license from the SSCA, Mr Chansereyvutha said, adding that it seems like the company is now ready to resume operations again.
Luu Meng, co-chair of the Government-Private Sector Tourism Working Group, said that Cambodia should aim for more flights connecting the Kingdom to Australia and the European Union to keep tourists arrivals on the rise.
“Now we see there are many direct flights from China to Cambodia, bringing more Chinese tourists in,” Mr Meng said. “But to keep Western tourists coming in, we need more direct long-haul flights.”
Eric Delobel, CEO of Cambodia Airports, said they are expecting a slew of new routes in the near future, including Sihanoukville-Guangzhou, Sihanoukville-Kunming, Phnom Penh-Sanming, and Phnom Penh-Shenzhen.
There are now 12 Chinese airlines operating 155 direct flights each week to Cambodia, including 70 flights to Phnom Penh, 82 to Siem Reap, and three to Sihanoukville.