Firm to build Khmer airport
Bangkok Airways Co plans to put a Bt400-million airport on Cambodia's Kong Island in its first such venture abroad.
The new airport would join three in Thailand - Samui, Sukhothai and Trat. Trat is the gateway to Chang Island.
CEO Prasert Prasartthong-osoth said yesterday that construction would start this year, beginning with a runway, terminal and operation offices, and take a year to complete.
Bangkok Airways leases land on the casino island, which has become a popular tourist destination, especially for Thais, since Cambodia eased its immigration conditions to attract more visitors.
Bangkok would be connected to Kong Island, which lies just off the southern tip of Trat, twice or three times a week by ATR aircraft.
"We will be the first airline to operate on the island, just as we were in Siem Reap in Cambodia years ago," Prasert said.
Cambodia wants to attract investors to the island by promoting it as a special economic zone, he said.
The airline targets business people and tourists, particular from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Thailand.
Prasert denied that his service would see a big proportion of gamblers but agreed that they would be a major group.
The move is part of the company's network expansion from Indo-China to mainland China and other parts of the Far East such as Hong Kong and Japan.
The regional airline is also studying the feasibility of constructing an airport in southern Burma, but progress has been slow. It flies from Bangkok to Rangoon.
The privately owned airline is growing rapidly in the Asian market with three million passengers a year, of which 90 per cent are tourists from the West.
Bangkok Airways' sister airline in Cambodia, Siem Reap Airways International, operates Siem Reap-Phnom Penh, Siem Reap-Hong Kong and Siem Reap-Luang Prabang routes. It also flies from Phnom Penh to Kong Island and to Bangkok.
Siem Reap is home to the famous temples of Angkor Wat.
Bangkok Airways recently introduced Bangkok-Hiroshima flights.
The airline repositioned itself from a tourist carrier to a boutique airline several years ago to avoid clashing with budget airlines.
Bangkok Airways markets World Heritage Route tour packages, which combine the famed sites in countries along the Mekong River, including Sukhothai, Luang Prabang in Laos, Danang in Vietnam, Angkor Wat, and Yunnan in China.
"We don't want to compete with low-cost airlines, so we created the route to serve the upper-end market from both Asia and Europe," Prasert said.
The airline is developing a hotel chain called Heritage to complement its World Heritage Route.
Bangkok Airways and private-sector representatives met during the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Investment Summit in Luang Prabang to discuss ways to develop the GMS as a quality destination. Bangkok Airways was one of the major sponsors for the conference, which was held from Tuesday to Thursday.