A Lion Air airplane is seen parked at the tarmac of Soekarno-Hatta airport in Jakarta February 20, 2015. REUTERS/Beawiharta
Local tour operators and tourism associations are exploring potential tourism markets in Indonesia and urged both the Indonesian and Cambodian governments to facilitate direct flights between the two countries.

Speaking at the ‘Sales Mission 10 Indonesia Branding Destination’ in Cambodia on Friday, Chhay Sivlin, president of Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA), said Indonesia is the top five tourism destinations for Cambodian tourists.

Ms Sivlin said outbound Cambodian tourists to Indonesia and from Indonesia to Cambodia has increased recently compared to the past few years. She said this was due to the fact that Indonesia has promoted their tourism destinations in Cambodia as they found that Cambodians showed interest in visiting foreign countries, especially the neighboring nations.

“Indonesia is a new destination for Cambodian tourists. We saw the number of both countries’ tourist arrivals increasing,” Ms Sivlin said, adding that, “Indonesia is a big market for Cambodia. We want to grab this market, and push for more direct connectivity. Currently, we rely on Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore for air transits,” she said.

The event was organized by the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia in collaboration with Cambodia’s Tourism Ministry, CATA and Embassy of Indonesia in Cambodia.

Veng Sam Ol, managing director of Khmer World Connection Tours, a tour company sending tourists to Indonesia told Khmer Times the outbound traffic from Cambodia to Indonesia has immense potential with its attractive places to lure Cambodians.

Mr Sam Ol said his company’s tour packages are mostly designed for wedding, honeymoon, family and others. A week visit to Indonesia would cost $1,000 with demand increasing for this destination.

However, he said the poor connectivity and absence of direct flights are the main issues.

“We encountered the challenges with flights as we have to transit in Malaysia or Singapore Therefore, It is difficult to attract both tourist from Cambodia to Indonesia and Indonesia to Cambodia.

“More Cambodians will travel to Indonesia if there are direct flights. This is the main complaint that we get from potential travellers,” Mr Samol said.

CATA president Sivlin echoed Mr Samol’s views on the absence of direct flights. She said it is a challenge for Cambodia, which is missing out on Indonesia’s vast marketplace. She said though there are flights connecting to Indonesia via Singapore or Malaysia, they are not good enough. “We have to wait hours or sometimes a day long to reach Indonesia.”

Indonesian Tourism Ministry`s deputy assistant for marketing development region I, Ibu Masruroh, said the total number of Cambodians traveling to Indonesia increased from 5,000 in 2016 to 6,000 in 2017, while there were 49,000 Indonesians visiting Cambodia in 2017.