The government of Cambodia has reached an agreement with Macau officials to add direct flights to encourage more Chinese tourists to visit the kingdom.
Tourism Minister Thong Kong told the Phnom Penh Post it was Prime Minister Hun Sen who proposed a “direct air link” between Cambodia and the Chinese city state during a recently held forum in Macau.
Kong said the Macau officials have already agreed to the proposal, but they want “to start first with more charter flights or state-subsidized [scheduled service] to ensure the connectivity is there,” according to the report.
Currently, Bassaka Air operates two charter flights between Macau and Phnom Penh. Bassaka is a joint venture between Naga Corp and state-owned China International Travel Services.
Bassaka’s Macau representative Ng Tong Mio told the news outlet that they airline has flown more than 50 roundtrip flights between the two locations since May, noting that they plan to add charter flights and serve other Cambodian destinations.
“We plan to ask permission to have three charter flights per week. We want to have one flight daily to Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukvill respectively,” Ng said, according to Phnom Penh Post.
Tourism authorities in the kingdom are planning to entice more than 700,000 Chinese visitors this year, and up to 2 million visitors a year by 2020, with its thriving gambling and cultural tourism offerings.
“We cannot say that these tourists come to Cambodia only to gamble in our casinos. Not all Chinese come to Cambodia for gambling,” Kong told the news outlet.
Cambodia recently approved 10 new casino licenses, mostly to operators intending to focus on online gambling operations. Most of these casinos will be built on Cambodia’s southwest coast, the country’s main tourist destination. Majority of Cambodia’s 59 casinos are located near the border crossings with Thailand and Vietnam, but there were only very few operators in the Sihanoukville province, including the struggling Queenco Casino and Hotel.