The world’s UNESCO World Heritage sites are beautiful and intriguing, but not always the easiest to get to, especially for family travelers with little ones in tow. In Cambodia, a brand-new international airport is creating a much easier path to visit one of the country’s most-treasured sites while helping preserve it for future generations.
Last month, Cambodia opened its ambitious Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport. The much-needed, large-scale airport was designed and built to increase travel to nearby Angkor Wat Archaeological Park. The complex has historically been a popular tourist attraction, especially since being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992 and, while there has, until recently, been an airport located near the site, it was small and ill-equipped to handle the country’s ambitious tourism goals.
On opening day (Oct. 16) the airport welcomed 17 flights, including its very first flight which arrived on Bangkok Airways. It currently has 38 berths and the capacity to handle 7 million passengers each year, but is capable of increasing that load to 12 million passengers annually by 2040.
The Airport Designation Code is SAI and, with an 11,800-foot runway, it has the capacity to handle longer-haul airplanes than the original Siem Reap International Airport in the same region. The original airport, now shuttered, was located only a few miles from Angkor Wat Complex, while the new airport is approximately 25 miles away. While further from the site, the new increased-capacity airport gives visitors a much easier way to access the site while helping reduce noise and air pollution near the fragile temple buildings and grounds of Angkor Wat.
Construction on this $1.1 billion airport, which boasts a beautiful design inspired by traditional Cambodian architecture, began in 2020 and is hoped to play a large role in helping the country recover from the damaging effects the COVID-19 pandemic had on the local economy.
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