Cambodia needs more direct flights to and from destinations around the world to increase the country’s share of regional tourism, according to the State Secretariat for Civil Aviation.
Sin Chansereyvutha, spokesman for the secretariat, said foreign tourists have already started travelling directly to Cambodia rather than transiting through Thailand or Vietnam, thanks to increased air connectivity in the region.
“When Cambodia has more direct flights, Thailand will lose some of the market, but that does not mean it will harm the Thai economy and tourism,” Mr Chansereyvutha said. “There will be new airline companies to replace the losses.”
Last Friday, Thai tourism industry insiders voiced concerns over the loss of income for Thailand with tourists increasingly flying directly to Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV).
The Bangkok Post quoted tourism analysts from the Mekong region as saying that CLMV countries are becoming a more attractive destination to travellers, with greater air access and more direct flights from countries in the region, especially China.
Analysts said both low cost and full service airline companies from India, Singapore, Malaysia, the Middle East and China have started new routes and are increasing flights to these destinations.
Mr Chansereyvutha argued that Thailand will continue to be one of the world’s leading airline hubs, while the loss of some market share for tourists travelling to Cambodia will not be significant.
“The effect on their economy will be small,” Mr Chansereyvutha said. “About 32 airlines are now operating flights to Cambodia, so we have many direct flights every day.”
Thourn Sinan, chairman of the Pacific Area Travel Association Cambodia Chapter, told Khmer Times that Thailand will only lose tourists who have already been to the country and want to experience Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
He said the majority of travellers will still go to Thailand as their first destination in the region, given its connectivity and well-established infrastructure for tourists.
“Most tourists have already been to Thailand at least once before they visit Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar or Vietnam,” Mr Sinan said.
In order to make Cambodia a first choice destination, Mr Sinan said the country must improve local and international connectivity, provide value for money for tourism services and products, and raise awareness of how to harness the tourist industry among local people.
Foreign tourist arrivals to Cambodia went up more than 12 percent in the first quarter of 2017, as the country ramped up efforts to improve tourism services. Also the government’s open skies policy helped draw more visitors to the country.
A total of 1.5 million foreign tourists visited Cambodia from January to March, up 12 percent compared with the same period in 2016.
Asian tourists made up the majority of visitors, while travellers from Europe and the United States were among the least frequent.
China came out on top, with 273,000 tourists, followed by Vietnam with 203,000 and South Korea with 127,740.