Direct Japan-Cambodia flights begin Thursday

Direct Japan-Cambodia flights begin Thursday

Boats of ethnic Muslim-Cham are seen on Tonle Basac river in Phnom Penh on Aug 14, 2016. Japan and Cambodia will launch direct flights on Thursday to promote tourism, trade and investment. (Reuters photo)
Boats of ethnic Muslim-Cham are seen on Tonle Basac river in Phnom Penh on Aug 14, 2016. Japan and Cambodia will launch direct flights on Thursday to promote tourism, trade and investment. (Reuters photo)

The first direct flight from Tokyo’s Narita Airport is expected to arrive on Thursday, kicking off the new daily direct flight service between Cambodia and Japan.

The long-heralded service will be operated by Japan’s national All Nippon Airways (ANA) and comes on the back of Cambodia’s continued economic growth, ANA’s public relations department wrote in an email to the Khmer Times.

“Our first flight will arrive at Phnom Penh on Sept 1. The Cambodian economy is growing and the world, not only Japan, eyes Cambodia as potential market. We consider this is a good timing to launch our direct flights,” the email on Wednesday stated.

The first flight is expected to arrive in Phnom Penh at 3.10pm.

Sinn Chansereyvutha, spokesman for the Secretariat of State for Civil Aviation, explained that ANA would use Boeing 787 planes, which can carry 300 passengers, although for the inaugural flight there would be 280 people on board.

“They feel that we have good economic growth and political stability and that’s why they thought it is the right time for them to come. This proves their trust in our country,” he said, adding that the new service would significantly cut flight time and the need to transfer.

Yuji Kumamaru, Japanese ambassador to Cambodia, called the long-awaited resumption in direct flights -- an earlier service was stopped in 2009 -- a “dream come true.”

“It will change the dynamism of our relations. Daily direct flights between the two countries will surely accelerate our already expanding relations especially in terms of investment, trade and tourism,” he added.

Japanese tourists to Cambodia in the first half of this year increased 0.3% over the same time last year, to 90,877. However, last year’s overall total of 193,330 marked a 10.4% drop from 2014, ranking Japan as the seventh-highest sender of tourists to Cambodia.

Hiroshi Suzuki, CEO and chief economist at the Business Research Institute for Cambodia, said that direct flights would make Cambodia a more attractive destination for Japanese tourists.

“From the view point of general Japanese businessmen and investors, it seems that Cambodia is very far from Tokyo. They have been trapped with a stereotypical image of Cambodia as full of landmines and poor farmers,” he said.

However, once they have visited Cambodia, their image could change drastically and they would wake up and understand the country’s current economic development and potential capability,” Suzuki told the Khmer Times.

According to the Council for Development of Cambodia, cumulative investment since 1994 from Japan reached more than $400 million as of June last year.  Cambodia’s exports to Japan, from January to June, rose by 32.7% to $565 million, from $425 million in the same period last year, according to data from the Japan External Trade Organisation (Jetro).

Jetro’s figures also indicate that Cambodia’s imports from Japan only rose marginally by 0.9% to $134 million in the first half of the year.

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