Cambodia has a brand new airport for travellers flying directly to its popular Angkor Wat attraction, offering an upgraded experience to get to the famous site in a bid to boost tourism.
The new Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport (SAI), located 25 miles east of Angkor Wat and now the largest in Cambodia, welcomed its first flights on Monday, The Associated Press reported. The first flight to land at the new airport was a Bangkok Airways flight from Thailand.
The new airport is further away from the ancient site than the old one, which was just over 3 miles from the temples. Officials feared that vibrations from frequent flights were damaging the temples’ foundations.
“The launch and operation of the first commercial flights to SAI is a turning point for Cambodia in promoting tourism development in its historical area, with the largest international airport in the Siem Reap Angkor region,” said Vongsey Vissoth, deputy prime minister and minister in charge of the Council of Ministers, according to the Phnom Penh Post.
The new airport, which was built under an agreement between Cambodia and China, can accommodate 7 million passengers a year, according to the AP. There are now plans to upgrade it to handle 12 million passengers a year by 2040.
The completion of the new airport, which began construction in 2020, comes as Cambodia aims to regain its pre-pandemic tourism numbers. In the first eight months of this year, the country received about 3.5 million international tourists, according to the wire service. That’s down significantly from 2019, when the country welcomed about 6.6 million international visitors.
Flights to the new airport arrive from several regional destinations, including Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City and Singapore, according to flight tracker FlightAware.
While Angkor Wat is one of the most popular tourist sites in Cambodia, the country is teeming with other less visited temples, such as the town of Mahendraparvata. And for travellers who do want to visit Angkor Wat, it is possible to do so without the crowds with properties such as the Amansara, which brings guests in at dawn through a secret back entrance.