Pattaya tourism far better than feared in Jan-Sept 2014

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Despite predictions of doom by local officials and bar-napkin estimates by expats, tourism in Pattaya during the first three quarters of 2014 actually declined less than 5 percent, according to new figures from the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

TAT recently released its regional breakdowns for January through September and the numbers were far better than the dire estimates by politicians, businesspeople and locals who speculated arrivals had fallen 10-30 percent.

Pattaya saw 7.14 million Thai and foreign visitors for the first three quarters of last year, down 4.49 percent. Foreign tourists dropped 5.95 percent to 6.72 million visitors.

Pattaya’s tourism numbers are quite as dire as some might think.Pattaya’s tourism numbers are quite as dire as some might think.

The first quarter of last year – when violent street demonstrations gripped Bangkok – saw the steepest declines, with foreign visitors down 9 percent and Thais declining 5.7 percent. Thai tourism turned and stayed positive from April through September, up 1.6 percent.

The average length of a tourist’s stay in Pattaya was virtually flat from 2013, with visits lasting an average three days, vs. 3.1 days in the first nine months of 2013. Foreign tourists stayed 2.9 percent less time in Pattaya last year, an average of 3.2 days.

Average spending also wasn’t much different in the first three quarters of 2014 as it in the previous year. Visitors spent an average 3,332 baht per day in 2014, up 2.24 percent, which correlates almost exactly with the annual rate of inflation. Foreigners spent slightly more than Thais at 3,559 baht per day.

Overall, however, tourist-related revenue was down for Pattaya in 2014 at 23.6 billion baht, down 4.3 percent, which was less than the overall decline in tourist numbers.

Hotel occupancy for the first nine months of the year averaged 69.6 percent, down 0.8 percent for the year.

The first quarter – high season – marked the high-water point for the year at 76.9 percent, which, despite the Bangkok protests, still came in 1.9 percent higher than in peaceful 2013. The third quarter, as usual, marked the low of the low season at average occupancy rates of 61.9 percent.

TAT is still preparing countrywide tourist numbers for January as well as last-quarter breakdowns for Pattaya and other regions.

The country saw substantial gains in tourism arrivals in November and, particularly, December. But Pattaya’s fourth-quarter numbers may not stand up as well due to its reliance on Russian tourists, which have declined more than 25 percent due to the historic devaluation of the ruble.