Indonesia to expand direct flights to raise tourist sector

By TIN Media | Asean News Published 2 months ago on 15 February 2024
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In a bid to promote the “Two Countries, One Destination” initiative, Cambodia and Indonesia have agreed to enhance ties by establishing direct flights from key Indonesian tourist locales to Cambodia’s principal attractions.

The commitment to advancing the campaign was made during a meeting between Indonesian ambassador to Cambodia Santo Darmosumarto and Minister of Tourism Sok Soken on February 13 at the ministry.

During the meeting, both parties discussed opportunities for cooperation in strengethening tourism between the two nations.

They focused on the development of human resources in the sector, enhancing connectivity and setting standards to encourage reciprocal tourist flow.

“The minister and ambassador emphasised the efforts to raise awareness of tourist destinations in the two countries by connecting direct flights from major Indonesian … destinations to major Cambodian sites, specifically Siem Reap and various coastal areas,” a press release from the ministry stated. 

Cambodia’s open skies policy

Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA), emphasised that Indonesia, with its large economy and population, represents one of the biggest markets in Asia from which Cambodia could greatly benefit through the expansion of direct flights.

“The increase in direct flights will provide [Cambodia] with more opportunities to attract Indonesian tourists as well as businesspeople. As we can see, Indonesia could be the largest tourist market in Asia in terms of population,” she said. 

However, she advised that Cambodia should be well-prepared with tourism packages, particularly in terms of accommodation and, crucially, the provision of halal food to cater to these visitors.

“We understand that in the past, we were lacking halal food options here, resulting in most visitors limiting their stay to main tourist destinations like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, where halal food is served. So now, it’s essential for other destinations to enhance their offerings to cater to these visitors,” she added

Thourn Sinan, president of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia chapter, highlighted that the country had not received many Indonesian guests in the past due to the absence of direct flights. He expressed hope that the expansion would attract more.

“We welcome the increase in connections as it will not only boost tourism but also enhance investment between the two nations,” he added.

In April 2023, budget carrier Air Asia launched direct flights between Jakarta and Phnom Penh, a development expected to strengthen the industry and bilateral relations between the two countries, according to Chea Aun, standing secretary of state at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA).

The establishment of the route followed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on tourism cooperation, signed at the Indonesian embassy in Phnom Penh on April 10.

Aun stated that flights to Jakarta would operate four days per week, utilising typical Airbus A320 aircraft.

“The launch of the direct flight by AirAsia showcases the Bilateral Air Transport Service Agreement between Cambodia and Indonesia that was signed in 1969. It shows that the integration of ASEAN air transport arrangements has been proudly implemented,” he said.

“Cambodia has established an open skies policy to attract more direct inbound flights. This will facilitate international tourism, creating more employment opportunities and growing the national economy,” he added.

Leaders pledge all areas co-op

On January 10, Prime Minister Hun Manet met with Darmosumarto where stressed that Cambodia and Indonesia were poised to continue strengthening and expanding cooperation across various sectors in 2024, including the economy, education, defence and others.

The joint press release noted that the ambassador lauded the government’s many achievements under Manet’s leadership in the past 100 plus days. 

“2024 marks the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. At the meeting, the ambassador expressed his commitment to making 2024 a year dedicated to fostering the relationship and cooperation,” it stated.

Darmosumarto highlighted the strong and long-standing diplomatic ties between the two nations, expressing his dedication to enhancing collaboration in areas such as economic partnership, people-to-people connections, public service provision and contributing to peace, stability and development in the region.

Manet welcomed Darmosumarto and his colleagues, acknowledging the ambassador’s commitment. He affirmed the government’s readiness to continue enhancing and broadening cooperation.

During the meeting, the two sides also discussed ways to boost economic cooperation, including increasing and continuing the export of Cambodian milled rice to Indonesia.

According to data from the ministry, the Kingdom welcomed over 5.453 million foreign tourists in 2023, a 139.5% increase from more than 2.276 million the previous year.

Indonesian tourists ranked in the top eight with 127,178 arrivals, marking an increase of more than 68%.


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