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Secretary of State of Cambodia Tekreth Samrach (right) presents a gift to Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker after the arrival of the inaugural flight in Phnom Penh, yesterday.
By Isabel Ovalle
PHNOM PENH: A few minutes past 2pm local time Qatar Airways’ first flight from Doha to Cambodia landed in Phnom Penh International Airport marking the 125th route of the airline and its 11th gateway in Asia.
The flight was welcomed at the terminal with an official ceremony attended by numerous representatives form the Government of Cambodia and representatives of local and international media.
After the traditional water salute, passengers of flight QR602, including Akbar Al Baker, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the airline, joined dignitaries such as the Secretary of State of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Tekreth Samrach, and the Minister of Tourism, Thong Khon, in an event that kicked off in the warm Cambodian weather with a customary local dance. Cambodian Ambassador to Kuwait Long Kem, who is also responsible for Qatar, was also present.
With this route, Qatar Airways becomes the only Gulf airline to fly to Phnom Penh. The daily flight stops at Ho Chi Minh City, in Vietnam. However, the CEO announced that the company’s goal is to have a non-stop flight Doha-Phnom Penh in the near future.
“Though Cambodia is one of the fastest growing economies in South East Asia, it has an air travel market that is highly underserved. Qatar Airways is here to fill this void and we look forward to working with the travel trade and our business partners to make this a hugely successful operation,” added Al Baker.
Approximately 30 percent of the airline’s network is comprised of Asian destinations, the new addition being Chengdu in China.
The CEO of Cambodia Airports, Emmanuel Menanteau, said that the connection with Doha is a “new milestone for us.” He added that this flight would significantly enhance the connections of Phnom Penh to other primary destinations through the airline’s hub, Doha, in Europe, the Americas and the Middle East.
Phnom Penh international airport received a total of 2,077,282 passengers on 26,248 flights in 2012. Of the total number of passengers, 1,083,190 departed and 1,085,280 arrived.
Cambodia Airports comprises Phnom Penh and tourist cities Siem Reap and Preah Sihanouk. In less than two decades (1993 to 2007), there was a significant rise in the number of international visitors to the country, growing from 118,000 to over two million.
Currently 22 international companies operate in the Cambodian capital. In this context, the ministry of Tourism highlighted that this industry is the second largest income generator in the country, with 3.6 million visitors in 2012, a figure that represents a 24 percent increase in comparison to the previous year.
Qatar grants tourist visas at border points for the nationals of more than 33 countries, not including Cambodia. Nationals from this country need to arrange them beforehand. Travellers from Qatar can get a visa on arrival in Cambodia.
The carrier closed the day with a gala dinner at the Raffles Hotel in Phnom Penh, attended by the Prince of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Thomico Sisowath.