AirAsia will resume flights between the Cambodian coastal resort of Sihanoukville and the Thailand and Malaysian capitals, spurring hopes among tourism players of improved arrivals and inbound business.
From August 1, AirAsia will operate three weekly return flights connecting Sihanoukville with Kuala Lumpur every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. From August 3, two weekly return flights will resume between Sihanoukville and Bangkok. every Tuesday and Saturday.
A Cambodia Airports’ spokesman said this is a “breakthrough” move as currently Sihanoukville International Airport operates only two international flights.
Steve Lidgey, general manager of tour company Asia a la Carte, predicts the connections will be a hit with Thai and Malaysian travellers looking for casino-driven breaks in Sihanoukville, which in recent years has seen scores of gaming spots mushroom.
“I can only see benefits for Asian travellers who book at short notice, and are keen to discover new destinations. The lures of casinos will be sure to attract Thai and Malaysian travellers,” he said, adding that the nearby islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samleom may then benefit from day trippers.
“Western travellers cannot use Don Muang as a connecting point for onward flights to Europe. Therefore, that route is only practical for expats living in Bangkok,” Lidgey added.
He also hopes Bangkok Airways will launch the Sihanoukville-Bangkok connection it announced pre-Covid, which had not started as planned due to the onset of the pandemic.
“We can still hope that the previously announced Bangkok-Sihanoukville route with Bangkok Airways will start sometime in the future, as the airline offers connections through Suvarnabhumi to multiple other destinations,” he said.
“We can see how developed Sihanoukville is now, but there’s not much air connectivity. So, AirAsia is starting at the right time and it’s good news for the tourism sector there,” said Thourn Sinan, chairman of B2B Cambodia and PATA Cambodia Chapter.
“The city is well developed but all hotels are almost empty and restaurants are closing because there are not many international tourists, (so) they rely on domestic tourists.”