Aviation in Cambodia soars past Covid challenges in 2023


A member of the ground crew at Phnom Penh Airport in August 2023. - PPP

PHNOM PENH: Following the decline in Covid-19 concerns since 2022, the global and regional civil aviation industry has begun its recovery, with Cambodia’s sector experiencing over 100% growth in 2023, although the upturn remains below the pre-pandemic growth levels.

According to a report by the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), the country welcomed 5,111,810 air passengers in 2023, more than doubling the 2022 figure of 1,407,972, comprising 1,957,600 Cambodians and 4,916,064 foreigners.

The country had a total of 33 airlines, marking a 27% increase compared to 26 airlines in 2022, including four local and 29 foreign airlines.

Cambodia’s three international airports handled a total of 51,149 flights, a considerable rise from 28,898, marking a 56% increase, consisting of 4,675 domestic and 46,474 international flights.

An increase in flight-over numbers was also experienced, seeing 63,087 in 2023, up from 49,102 in 2022, an approximate 28% increase, as per the secretariat.

SSCA undersecretary of state Sinn Chanserey Vutha told The Post that the figures demonstrate significant progress in the industry over the past year, following the severe impact of Covid-19.

“Looking at the numbers, we see that activity in the sector rose sharply in 2023 compared to 2022, reflecting the resurgence of tourists,” he said.

According to the same report, Cambodia’s air freight growth experienced a modest increase of 1% in 2023.

Chanserey Vutha explained that the rise was only slight due to the high demand for air transport during the pandemic. However, he said, as the global health crisis abated and land and waterway transport resumed, there was a consequent slowdown in air transport.

“With this 1% increase, we are still achieving some level of growth, rather than experiencing no growth at all. I believe that by 2025, we will see higher expansion after the capital’s new Techo International Airport [TIA] becomes operational,” he stated.

“This will bring larger airlines to Cambodia, though our progress will also depend on the economic situation, particularly in terms of production within the Kingdom,” he added.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, the kingdom welcomed 5.45 million foreign guests in 2023, a 139.5% increase compared to 2022. Foreign tourism revenue was approximately US$3.04 billion, up 115% from $1.41 billion in 2022.

Thourn Sinan, chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata) Cambodia chapter, told The Post previously that the increase in air traffic over the past year, due to the resumption of numerous international airlines, was a positive development.

However, he noted that the economic crisis triggered by the Russia-Ukraine war has significantly affected global travel.

“In order to attract more tourists to Cambodia, it is essential for the country to strive for direct flights to major cities in each country, not just the administrative capitals.

“India is also an important target market that Cambodia must focus on,” he said.

Chanserey Vutha noted that the most air travel in 2023 was between Cambodia and Thailand, followed by Vietnam, China and Laos.

“As a result, routes between these four countries in the region have seen substantial growth in recent years. For 2024, I expect our civil aviation sector to perform even better, as the global and regional economic situation appears to be improving. This will foster more air travel activities, in alignment with our government’s policy,” he said.

Tripadvisor, a US-based global travel news site, ranked the kingdom’s Angkor Wat among the top 10 tourist destinations in the world last year, particularly for visitors seeking to experience the “best sunrise tours in the world”. - The Phnom Penh Post/ANN

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