Last year, Cambodia welcomed 4.2 million foreign tourists, a rise of more than 17 per cent year on year. More than two million of those visitors travelled by air, an increase of 47 per cent. With 24 foreign-owned airlines operating in the Kingdom, Singapore’s SilkAir is one of the main carriers serving the Phnom Penh-Singapore and Singapore-Siem Reap routes. SilkAir’s manager in Cambodia, Tan Han Soo, sat down with the Post’s May Kunmakara to talk about competition and how SilkAir is faring in the regional market.
When did SilkAir start flying here?
We first came to Phnom Penh in October of 1992. We started flights to Siem Reap in November of 2000. We fly twice a day on the Singapore-Phnom Penh route and have 11 flights weekly between Singapore and Siem Reap. For us, we see future growth here. We are here for the long term.
Singapore-based Tiger Air began serving the same routes in October 2012. Are you concerned about the competition?
That was the same month we had our 10-year anniversary here. Competition will help to keep us on top and it is good for the aviation industry, for the country and for the economy because the ASEAN countries are expanding air service and that is opening up the market.
So I think it is good for everyone. I don’t want to mention much about other carriers. We are talking only about our own. What I can say is that since Tiger launched services, our passenger numbers have not been affected. We still see increases in passenger numbers because we have a different market segment and we offer good quality services.
Does the amount of low-cost flights affect your business?
I think the important thing to remember is that we have our own market segment. SilkAir is not a low-cost carrier. That is a very important point. We are a full premium service carrier.
Cambodian aviation officials say that in the next few years, 10 more airlines will operate in Cambodia. Any thoughts on what may become a crowded sector?
This is something encouraging because it will actually increase Cambodia’s profile in the region. The more there are, the better it is.
With the government pushing tourism to the coastal areas, does SilkAir have expansion plans, like to Sihanoukville?
I think Sihanoukville’s airport at the moment is not ready, because when we fly, we have to look at the market demand, infrastructure, safety and security.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity