Local tourism industry players are eager for regional airline Bangkok Airways Pcl’s resumption of direct flight services between the Thai capital and Siem Reap town on August 1 – home of Cambodia’s awe-inspiring Angkor Archaeological Park – which is expected to boost the growth rate of international tourist arrivals as travel demand between the neighbouring countries progressively returns to pre-crisis levels.
Bangkok Airways in a press release last week announced the decision to start daily direct flights between Suvarnabhumi Airport in the Thai capital and Siem Reap as well as Myanmar’s commercial hub Yangon on August 1, with a route to central Vietnam’s Danang city to start up a month later.
“We are more than delighted to announce the resumption of Bangkok-Siem Reap, Bangkok-Yangon and Bangkok-Danang routes after we resumed our three first international flights between Samui-Singapore in August 2021, Bangkok-Phnom Penh in December 2021 and Bangkok-Maldives in July 2022,” Bangkok Airways president Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth said in the release.
“The soon-to-resume flights between Bangkok and Siem Reap, Yangon and Danang are anticipated to boost Thailand’s tourism as well as tourism in our neighbouring countries.
“We have assured that Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam have robust processes in place to ensure leisure and business travels between these cities can be undertaken safely,” he added.
Thai AirAsia currently also flies from Bangkok to Siem Reap, but from Don Mueang, the Thai capital’s other airport.
Speaking to The Post on July 31, Cambodia Association of Travel Agent (CATA) president Chhay Sivlin argued that the return of the Bangkok-Siem Reap flights reflected an increase in demand for the direct route since the Cambodian government moved to enable a broader resumption of socio-economic activity in November, as the Covid-19 pandemic ebbed away.
The additional flights will bump up international arrivals by air, by providing travellers keen to visit Siem Reap province an alternative to flying to the capital and then making their way northwest in a lengthy overland journey, she said. “This is a very positive sign for Siem Reap province.”
The number of foreign tourists in Siem Reap has yet to reach pre-Covid levels, Sivlin said, adding that most were from Vietnam and Thailand, with fewer from the region, the US or Europe.
Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan stressed that “the more flights the better” for the tourism industry in Siem Reap, which houses the Angkor park, listed as World Heritage by UNESCO.
“We encourage starting more flights to Cambodia – especially Siem Reap,” he said, adding that although European visitors to the province remain fairly limited, arrivals from Thailand have been on the rise.
Bangkok Airways said the Bangkok-Siem Reap flight would be operated by an ATR72-600 aircraft, named for its standard seating capacity of 72.
“The outbound flight PG905 departs Bangkok – Suvarnabhumi International Airport – at 10:30am and arrives at Siem Reap International Airport at 11:45am. The inbound flight PG906 departs Siem Reap International Airport at 12:15pm and arrives [at] Bangkok – Suvarnabhumi International airport – at 1:55pm,” it said.
Cambodia welcomed 506,762 international arrivals in the first half of 2022, which marks a 394.1 per cent year-on-year surge, according to a Ministry of Tourism report.
Broken down by method of entry, 240,637 visitors arrived by air, 261,515 by land and 4,610 by waterways, representing year-on-year increases of 420.3 per cent, 364.4 per cent and 230.4 per cent, respectively.
The report also revealed that holidaymakers made 6.33 million domestic trips in the first half, up by 219.3 per cent on a yearly basis, while foreign residents accounted for 0.68 million, which marked a 380.3 per cent year-on-year rise.