At least 13 airlines currently operate flights between Cambodia’s three international airports and China, and the civil aviation regulator is eager to authorise additional interested carriers, as the government targets one million mainland Chinese visitors to the Kingdom for 2023.

State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) spokesman Sin Chansereyvutha told The Post on March 13 that among the 13 are five local airlines: Cambodia Airways, JC Airlines, Lanmei Airlines, Sky Angkor Airlines, and national flag carrier Cambodia Angkor Air.

Seven Chinese airlines fly to and from Phnom Penh: national flag carrier Air China, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Spring Airlines, XiamenAir and China Eastern Airlines – the last of which also flies to and from Siem Reap.

Ruili Airlines operates flights to and from Sihanoukville, in the southwestern coastal province of Preah Sihanouk, Chansereyvutha added, noting that airlines determine their own destinations in their requests for authorisation.

“We always welcome companies that want to add flights to destinations in China, since the government has set a goal of attracting more Chinese tourists to the country,” he said.

Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia Chapter chairman Thourn Sinan told The Post on March 14 that more flights between the two countries mean more options for Chinese tourists wanting to travel to Cambodia, which he described as ideal for reaching the government goal of one-million mainland visitors this year.

“We welcome more flights to destinations in China because it’d make it easier for Chinese tourists to visit our country,” he opined.

Cambodia Airways recently announced a new route linking Phnom Penh and Beijing, with thrice-weekly flights starting on March 27, with the frequency set to increase to five a week from April 17.

On January 2, six days before Beijing’s reopening to outbound tourism, Prime Minister Hun Sen stated that Cambodia would not follow in the footsteps of other countries in imposing further restrictions on Covid-19 on the arrival of mainland Chinese.

Instead, the premier presented Beijing’s move as a chance to bring in around “two million” mainland Chinese visitors this year, taking advantage of pent-up and growing travel demand. He stressed that greater numbers of Chinese tourists would usher in near-term and longer-term growth for the Cambodian economy.

Of note, according to the Ministry of Tourism, Cambodia has only twice tallied more than two million annual mainland Chinese visitors: 2.024 million in 2018 and 2.362 million in 2019, of which 1.299 million and 1.577 million respectively had their purpose of visit marked as “holiday”.