The ASEAN-EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (CATA) is reportedly set to be signed by the end of 2021 and is widely expected to help revive the transport and tourism sectors, which continue to suffer the effects of the global health crisis.
Ministry of Public Works and Transport director-general for Logistics Chheang Pich chaired a final virtual meeting on June 2 to conclude talks on the accord.
He claimed that the CATA would be signed on November 11 at the 27th ASEAN Transport Ministers' Meeting in Siem Reap province, with Cambodia as chair, noting that signatory states must ratify the agreement, and relevant provisions, in accordance with Article 29 of the document.
"The ASEAN-EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement is another achievement in the field of air transport – a unique regional agreement that strengthens connectivity in air transport networks between ASEAN and the EU," Pich said.
Once ratified, he said, the agreement will greatly benefit the “extensive” aviation, tourism and service sectors of the ASEAN and EU blocs, which serve a population of more than one billion – 660 million in ASEAN and 440 million in the EU.
"This agreement is very important in reviving the air freight and tourism sectors and will also help revitalise the economies of ASEAN countries, especially after the outbreak of Covid-19," he said.
Cambodia Association of Travel Agents president Chhay Sivlin told The Post that this was an “open-sky policy” between Cambodia, through ASEAN, and the EU that would give the Kingdom the opportunity to enable better connectivity to the world through additional direct flights. This agreement will also promote tourism in Cambodia and further propel growth in the tourism industry, she said.
“Direct flights would ignite the interest of international tourists to travel to Cambodia, which we want to substantiate as a viable tourist destination,” she said, adding: “I hope that through this agreement, it’ll be possible for Cambodia to be connected by flights with ASEAN countries and the EU, which would enable us to receive more international tourists than in previous years, and turn Cambodia into a regional tourist destination with potential.”
Covid-19 has largely driven down tourism revenue in Cambodia, which reached $1.023 billion in 2020, down 79.2 per cent from 2019. The Kingdom welcomed 1.31 million international tourists last year, down 80.2 per cent compared to 6.61 million in 2019, according to a Ministry of Tourism statistics report.