While presiding over the November 16 formal inauguration of the Siem Reap Angkor International Airport (SAI), Prime Minister Hun Manet noted that the airport marked another historic achievement for the Kingdom, and represented the ironclad friendship between Cambodia and China.

Built at a cost of $1.1 billion, the state-of-the-art facility is located in Sotr Nikum and Chi Kraeng districts fo Siem Reap province, just 40km from the world-renowned Angkor Archaeological Park and 50km from Siem Reap town. 

During the official ceremony, Manet said the airport marked an achievement that would continue to benefit the Kingdom well into the future.

“SAI is one of the fruits of peace, and is just one of the latest achievements created by the bonds of the ironclad friendship between Cambodia and China. It follows the construction of the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway, which was inaugurated late in 2022,” he added. 

He explained that SAI will attract visitors and play an important role in the tourism sector, not just in Siem Reap province, but across the entire country. He expected SAI to attract investors and bring economic benefits to the people. 

He noted that through “Visit Siem Reap 2024” campaign, more and more Chinese tourists would visit the Kingdom next year, which meant Cambodia needed to be prepared to welcome them. He also mentioned that the expansion of border passes was planned, so it would be easier for regional tourists to visit the province without using a passport.

 “We hoped that 2024 will marks the beginning of the revival of the tourist sector in Siem Reap province and serve as the foundation for expanding tourism across the country. This in turn, will foster the development of other sectors,” he said.

He instructed the provincial authorities to pay close attention to guaranteeing security and pubic order around SAI and the whole province, in order to ensure the safety of visitors to the province. 

“The authorities need to do everything they can to maintain safety and security around the new airport, and the province, so the airport will function well. This is crucial to protecting the well-being of all of the guests we welcome to the province,” he added.

Mao Havanall, minister in charge of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), also addressed the inauguration, noting that SAI marks another level of the “ironclad” friendship and “diamond” cooperation between Cambodia and China, within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as well as the initiatives of the heads of governments of the two countries. 

He explained that in 2019, the old Siem Reap airport received 3.9 arrivals and nearly 40,000 flights, with more than 100 flights per day.

“Although at present we see just 34 fights on a daily basis – or about 32 per cent of the 2019 numbers – we hope that the brand-new infrastructure that this airport represents will attract more and more domestic and international visitors and airlines, especially flights from China. This might help the tourism sector to return normalcy soon,” he said.

He added that the first 10 months of the year saw over 4 million air arrivals, up 144 per cent on 2022, and 41,000 flights, 93 per cent more than the same period last year. 

“Overall, we estimate that more than 55 per cent of the commercial airline sector has been restored, when compared to pre-pandemic figures. We are also currently building two new international airports – Phnom Penh and Dara Sakor. We have also upgraded one existing international airport – the Preah Sihanouk International Airport,” he said.

 “We also have plans to develop the new Mondulkiri and Koh Rong airports, as part of the government’s tourism growth agenda,” he added.