Vinci Airports, the parent company of Cambodia Airports, is set to complete the construction of a new terminal at Sihanoukville International Airport (KOS) by 2026, aiming to tap into potential tourism arrivals to the country’s coastal areas expected in the coming years.

Emmanuel Menanteau, CEO of Cambodia Airports – the concessionaire of KOS and Phnom Penh International Airport (PNH) – discussed the company’s investment plans in the aviation sector during a February 1 meeting with Sun Chanthol, first vice-president of the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC).

According to the CDC press release, Chanthol expressed his appreciation for the company’s investment, highlighting its project as a reflection of foreign investors’ trust in the country.

Thourn Sinan, chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia Chapter, welcomed the financing for the initiative, noting its contribution to the development of the country’s aviation sector. 

He noted that while the tourism sector has been gradually improving, it has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels, when the Kingdom welcomed millions of tourists, especially from Europe. 

“The company has a strategic plan, anticipating an increase in tourists to coastal areas over the next few years. Thus, the expansion and construction of a new terminal will respond to the rising number of [visitors] in the upcoming years,” he stated.

According to the press release, VINCI has operated Cambodia’s three international airports – KOS, PNH and then-Siem Reap International Airport (REP) – for over 25 years through its subsidiary.

The airports handled a total of 10 million passengers in 2019, following an investment of $270 million in transport infrastructure.

REP closed in 2023 upon the opening of the new Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport (SAI), currently the Kingdom’s largest airport, constructed and operated by Chinese-owned Yunnan Investment Holdings Limited under a public-private partnership (PPP) agreement. 

The airports in Preah Sihanouk and Phnom Penh have also been expanded to accommodate the growing number of travellers.

A new state-of-the-art international airport – the Kingdom’s largest once completed – is being constructed just outside the capital and slated to open in its first phase in 2025. 

Sihanoukville, a coastal town popular with international tourists, has seen considerable growth since regular flights to the destination commenced in 2011.

In 2020, KOS completed the renovation of its runway with a $58 million investment, initiated in 2018 and carried out by a consortium including VINCI Construction Terrassement and Soletanche Freyssinet, a leader in soil and structural engineering.

The modernisation enabled the airport to accommodate wide-body and ultra-long haul aircraft, such as the Boeing 777-300ER and the Airbus A350-1000. A new LED runway lighting system was installed, enhancing visibility for pilots and reducing the airport’s energy consumption.

Under a PPP signed with the government in 1995, Cambodia Airports holds a 45-year concession for the development and management of the country’s international airports, with the company’s shareholders consisting of France’s VINCI Airports (70%) and Muhibbah Masteron (Cambodia) Co Ltd (30%), a Malaysian-Cambodian joint venture.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, the Kingdom welcomed over 5.4 million foreign visitors in 2023, marking a nearly 140% increase compared to 2022. Travellers from four Asian countries comprised nearly 70% of the total. 

Thailand was the top source, contributing 1,820,460 tourists, or 33.4% of the total, followed by Vietnam, China and Laos, with year-on-year growth rates of visitors from the four countries at 113.3%, 119.8%, 412.6% and 302%, respectively. 

Other significant countries of origin included the US, South Korea, Indonesia, France, the UK and Malaysia, as per the ministry.