Cambodia’s airport partner French concessionaire Vinci on Saturday held the ground-breaking ceremony for the extension of the terminal and taxiway at Sihanoukville International Airport to accommodate up to 500,000 tourists a year to visit the province, said officials.
Sihanoukville International Airport received 100,000 tourists last year, while the airport’s current capacity is 150,000 passengers a year.
Officials said the terminal extension and renovations will provide more space to accommodate up to 500,000 passengers a year. The work is expected to be finished by the end of 2017 or by early 2018 at the latest.
Deputy Prime Minister Sok An told the crowd at the ceremony that he had received a number of requests from diplomats representing Russia, China and Japan to upgrade the airport’s facilities, including extending the current terminal, the taxiway as well as runway as the diplomats hope to have direct flights from their countries.
The air traffic is expected to increase 50 percent in one year.
“We do not have to extend the terminal…if we do not have an increase of tourist arrivals by air,” Mr. Sok An said.
Khek Norinda, a spokesman for Vinci, said: “We are doing the work on the runway. That means we are building a new taxiway to speed up the rotation of planes and to accommodate large aircraft.
“Also, early next year we are going to strengthen and widen the current runway.”
Vinci is extending the runway to 60 meters wide from its current width of 45 meters and it will be up to 2,500 meters long, he said.
The cost of the terminal extension and new taxiway is between $12 and $15 million. It is part of the $2 billion investment program until 2040 for the development of three airports, Phnom Penh International airport, Siem Reap International Airport and Sihanoukville International Airport, said Mr. Norinda.
Mao Havannall, Secretary of State for the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said: “It is our firm belief that Sihanoukville International Airport will play a central role in positioning the province as a strategic link between Southeast Asia and South and North Asia and Europe,” he said at the ceremony.
“The sky should be the limit when envisioning the Sihanoukville International Airport to be a highly efficient airport with traffic from all destinations, connecting passengers and cargo from every continent.
“Creating a powerful engine for economic development, claiming our international competitive position and stimulating employment on our coastal area.”
In 2015, the three international airports received 6.5 million passengers, an increase of 300 percent on 2005, making Cambodia one of the fastest-growing destinations in Asia, said Mr. Sok An. The tourism sector accounts about 17 percent of Cambodia’s GDP, along with creating jobs directly and indirectly, he added.
In 2015, Cambodia received 4.7 million tourists of which more than 50 percent arrived by air, he said.
“Cambodia’s air traffic plays a key role in supporting tourism development, which is the driving force of Cambodia’s economic growth,” he added. The Kingdom expects to receive seven to eight million tourists by 2020.
Mr. Sok An quoted IATA figures, saying there were 40 million flights carrying an estimated 3.5 billion travelers globally in 2015.
An estimated 27,000 aircraft were operated by 1,400 companies in 2015. Now there are 4,130 international airports globally.
IATA projected that by 2034 the number of international travelers will reach seven billion.
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