The $1.1 billion Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport remains on track to open in mid-October, with the main work on the initial phase having passed the 98 per cent mark last month, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation undersecretary of state and official spokesman Sinn Chanserey Vutha on July 9.

Breaking ground in March 2020, the airport (ICAO-Code: VDSA; IATA-Code: SAI) is being developed by Angkor International Airport Investment (Cambodia) Co Ltd (AIAI) on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis on a 700.06ha plot, with about 1,000ha set aside for “Airport City”, which will reportedly comprise industrial or special economic zones.

AIAI disclosed that the gross investment figure had been revised up to $1.100 billion in 2022 from $880 million in 2019. According to earlier accounts, the latter amount had been earmarked for all phases of the airport, with $500 million to be spent on the first and second of the three reported at the time.

The project is a joint venture co-owned between Yunnan Investment Group, Yunnan Construction Group and Yunnan Airport Group with stakes of 76.6 per cent, 20 per cent and 3.4 per cent, respectively.

“The new Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport is scheduled to be officially inaugurated in mid-October 2023 under the presidency of [Prime Minister] Hun Sen and senior leaders of the government of the People’s Republic of China,” Chanserey Vutha affirmed to The Post.

Having earlier revealed that the existing Siem Reap airport would be closed after the new one opens, Chanserey Vutha assured that staff would be allowed to work at the new location, although he noted that the operator will hire trainers to upskill them as necessary.

He also noted that the 24.5km “Airport Highway”, linking the airport to National Road 6 near the kilometre-294 marker, is 94 per cent complete and scheduled to be finished in September.

Angkor Tourist Guide Association president Khieu Thy told The Post on July 9 that foreign visitors to Siem Reap province’s historic temples remain rather scarce, mostly from nearby countries, despite the lifting of Covid-19 travel restrictions across the world.

Still, he remained hopeful for a jump in numbers of tourists from other destinations such as Europe during the high season, which generally begins at the end of the year.

“The Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport is slated to open at the beginning of the fourth quarter when many tourists travel. It’ll draw in more foreign travellers to see Angkor Wat. Tourism greatly contributes to job creation and the country’s economy,” Thy said.

According to Chanserey Vutha, the 4E-category airport will have 38 gates and be able to accommodate large aircraft such as Airbus’ A-340-300 and A350-900 as well as Boeing’s B777-200/300ER and B747-300/400.

He said the airport will be able to handle about 58,000 flights and seven million passengers per year initially, which will respectively increase to 86,000 and 10.5 million at some point in the 2030-2040 period.

Similarly, annual cargo capacity will rise from 10,000 tonnes initially to 30,000 tonnes in the 2030-2040 period, he added.

For reference, in the “4E” code designation, the number “4” means that the airport’s runway is longer than 1,800m and the letter “E” signifies that the runway is designed for aircraft with a wingspan of up to but not including 65m, and landing gear where the outside edges of the outermost wheels are less than 14m apart.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Tourism reported that Cambodia received 2.57 million international visitors in the first half of the year – equivalent to 77 per cent of the 3.338 million recorded in the same time of 2019.

Land, air and water modes of transportations made up 1.63 million, 0.91 million and 0.03 million of the total – compared to 0.898 million, 2.354 million and 0.087 million in January-June 2019.