Cambodia’s Newest and Biggest Airport Aims to Bring More Tourists to Angkor Wat

The new Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport (SAI) is located 25 miles east of Angkor Wat and is now the biggest in Cambodia.

<p>Malcolm P Chapman/Getty Images</p>

Malcolm P Chapman/Getty Images

Cambodia has a brand-new airport for travelers flying directly to its popular attraction of Angkor Wat, offering an upgraded experience to get to the famous site in an effort to boost tourism.

The new Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport (SAI), located 25 miles east of Angkor Wat and now the biggest 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 sits further away from the ancient site than the old one, which was just over 3 miles away from the temples. Officials worried the vibrations from frequent flights were damaging the temples’ foundations.

“The launching and commissioning of the first commercial flights to SAI is a turning point for Cambodia in promoting tourism development in its historic territory, with the largest international airport within the Siem Reap Angkor region,” said Vongsey Vissoth, the deputy prime minister and minister in charge of the Council of Ministers, according to The Phnom Penh Post.

The new airport, which was constructed under an agreement between Cambodia and China, can accommodate 7 million passengers per year, the AP noted. Currently, there are plans to update it to handle 12 million passengers per year from 2040.

The completion of the new airport, which began construction in 2020, comes as Cambodia aims to recapture the tourism numbers it saw pre-pandemic. In the first eight months of this year, the country has received about 3.5 million international tourists, according to the wire service. That’s significantly lower than 2019 when it saw 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 lesser-visited temples, like the city of Mahendraparvata. And for travelers who do want to visit Angkor Wat, it is possible to do it without the crowds with properties like the Amansara, which brings guests at dawn through a clandestine back entrance.

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