Pattaya tourism growth slows after ‘zero-baht’ crackdown

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Pattaya’s tourism market increased by only single digits last year due to the government’s crackdown on “zero baht” tours.

Sinchai Wattanasartsathorn, president of the Pattaya Business & Tourism Association, estimated the sector increased 5-6 percent in 2016.

Sinchai Wattanasartsathorn, president of the Pattaya Business & Tourism Association.
Sinchai Wattanasartsathorn, president of the Pattaya Business & Tourism Association.

The reason for the sluggish performance was the elimination of cheap package tours marketed to mainland Chinese travelers. Following legal action against the biggest operators of the tours, which allowed low-income Chinese to visit Thailand for little or no money down, the number of Chinese visitors to Pattaya plummeted.

Sinchai said the short-term impact was severe, but was a long-term plus as the industry could now focus on “quality” tourists spending at least 1,000 baht per person a day and spreading their money around the entire city, instead of spending only with a small number of vendors.

Overall, he said hotel occupancy increased slightly for four- and five-star hotels but that mid-range hotels were seeing stronger bookings at the beginning of this current high season.

He said tourism businesses are looking forward to a bump in Chinese tourists in 2017, with higher-spending quality tourists visiting in August through October.

Thai tourists, however, will be the primary focus for Pattaya in 2017, he said, in addition to “quality” European and Russian tourists.