Shenzhen Airlines’ first flight to Cambodia landed at Phnom Penh International airport on Wednesday, officially making it the seventh Chinese air carrier to operate in the booming local aviation market.
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The airline’s maiden flight touched ground in the afternoon, carrying 161 passengers who boarded in China’s southeastern megalopolis of Shenzhen.
The new route, connecting Phnom Penh and Shenzhen, will be serviced by three weekly flights.
“Our route development efforts in attracting more Chinese airlines and passengers have been rewarded handsomely this year. Cambodian authorities and tourism stakeholders have played a key role in today’s success,” said Eric Delobel, the CEO of Cambodia Airports, during celebrations after the airplane landed.
Mr Delobel explained that now the kingdom boasts connections to most major cities in China.
“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,” he said.
A milestone for the local aviation industry was reached earlier this year, when the combined number of Chinese passengers in Cambodia’s three international airports reached the one million mark, according to Cambodia Airports.
Sin Chansereyvutha, a spokesman for the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said more airlines is always good news for Cambodia’s nascent 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.”
The government now targets the two million mark in Chinese visitors by the year 2020. To his end, Cambodia Airports is upgrading the facilities in the country’s international airports, making them more user-friendly, expanding terminals and equipping them with Chinese signage.
In total, the investment amounts to $126 million.
Sihanoukville International Airport, for example, is extending and fully renovating its terminal facilities, a programme scheduled to be completed by the first semester of 2018.
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.