Having already made strong inroads into the Russian and Chinese markets, regional tourism associations are turning their gaze to the sports and disabled tourism sectors for future growth.
At a Jan. 30 “Challenging Pattaya” seminar organized by the Thai Hotel Association Eastern Chapter, Pattaya Business & Tourism Association, The East Coast Golf Courses Management Association, and Chonburi Attraction Club, Borisut Prasopsup, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s eastern region said the disabled market, in particular, holds promise, as group tours dominate that segment of the market.
Front row (L-R) Pratheep Singh Malhotra, MD of Pattaya Mail Media Group; Borisut Prasopsup, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s eastern region; Police Maj. Gen. Sunchai Chaiamporn, Deputy Commissioner of Provincial Police Region 2 and Ronakit Ekasingha, deputy mayor of Pattaya City. Back row (L-R) Suwanthep Malhotra, deputy MD of Pattaya Mail Media Group; Sompat Jantawan, GM of Tsix5 Hotel; Kullatorn Mesommonta, president of the East Coast Golf Courses Management Association; Komkrit Prasitnarit, committee member of the PBTA; Attapol Wannakit, TAT director Pattaya office; Bundarik Kusolvitya, president of the THA Eastern Chapter; Sanpech Supabowornsthian, GM of Long Beach Garden Hotel & Spa; Panida Kanaesaen, Secretary of Chonburi Attraction Club and Prayuth Thamdhum, GM of The Montien Hotel Pattaya.
“When the disabled travel, it’s usually not a solo trip, but in a group,” Borisut said. “To attract these groups, Pattaya must prepare and install various conveniences to help the disabled, including accessible hotel rooms.
“If Pattaya can perfect such plans, the city could become of the main options for disabled tourists and increase its tourism numbers by 1 million a year,” Borisut said.
Bundarik Kusolvitya, president of THA Eastern region, talks about solutions to the traffic problem in Pattaya, especially on Beach Road.
With Pattaya now attracting record numbers of tourists, new markets, such as the disabled sector, are becoming scarcer. The “Challenging Pattaya” seminar was organized to offer tourism-related business owners a chance to brainstorm new ideas and obtain the latest information on city and regional developments they can use in their marketing efforts.
TAT Pattaya Office Director Athapol Vannakit called 2012 a successful year, with 80,000 hotel rooms booked at any one time at the end of the year. Russians comprised the largest group, with 2.2 million visiting the city, followed by the Chinese, with 700,000 visitors. He predicted arrivals will increase 7.56 percent in 2013.
Bundarik Kusolvitya, president of the THA Eastern Chapter, also called last year’s numbers satisfactory, praising the Pattaya and Chonburi governments for their tourism-promotion efforts. “We have received better response in various markets after the political strife and natural disasters of 2010 and 2011.”
For future growth, tourism operators are looking to the disabled market, as well as sports tourists.
Kullathorn Meesommont, president of the East Coast Golf Courses Management Association, said its 20 member courses are working together to organize tournaments throughout the year, using Pattaya as the hub for most activities.
Among the signature events this year will be the Honda LPGA Thailand tournament at the Siam Country Club Feb. 21-24; and the Asia Golf Tourism Convention at the Royal Cliff Hotel Group April 29-May 2, he said.
Despite feeling good about 2012’s numbers and 2013’s potential, tourism operators said Pattaya still faces challenges, particularly in the areas of public safety, traffic and infrastructure.
The present state of Pattaya Beach where erosion has practically left the beach with no sand at high tide.
Bundarik called the traffic situation “critical,” warning that congestion, particularly on Beach Road, frustrates and turns away tourists. She called on the city and Beach Road businesses to agree to ban parking on the beachfront and for city hall to clean up its beachfront festivals by banning tawdry-looking booths selling cheap tours, junk and trinkets.
Attendees also raised concerns with illegal taxi cabs, unregulated street vendors, scamming tour guides and other issues. Police Maj. Gen. Sunchai Chaiamporn, Deputy Commissioner of Provincial Police Region 2, also reassured the audience about efforts to combat crime against tourists.
Pattaya City has begun placing sacks full of sand near the Dusit Thani Hotel which has been the hit hardest by beach erosion.
He said the Royal Thai Police’s much-touted four-week crackdown had reduced crime by 60 percent from Jan. 8 to Feb. 7, although he intimated that wouldn’t last once officers go home.
“From the crimes that have occurred, it’s evident that the issues lie with an insufficient number of officers to suppress crime,” Sunchai said. “There are only 377 officers for almost 6 million residents and tourists, or an average of one officer for each 15,000 people.”
A model of the new terminal building at U-Tapao-Rayong Pattaya International Airport. This is a joint project of Pattaya City and the Royal Thai Navy to develop it into a full-fledged commercial airport.
He said the Royal Thai Police has suggested building another police station for Pattaya, and staff it with officers sent from other jurisdictions.
Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh spoke of how the mayor and city officials were working very hard to solve Pattaya’s teething problems and implement projects to give the city a better public image. He said that public places and utilities are being improved upon constantly. Ronakit spoke of the beach reclamation project of which the plan is to create a 35 meter beach. He was confident that once completed the beach will once again become the main selling point for tourists to come to Pattaya.
An artist’s impression of what Pattaya Beach Road will look like after completion of the expansion and beautification project.
To solve traffic problems, the deputy mayor reiterated city hall’s intention to build another traffic lane on Beach Road.
He added that strict measure will be implemented very soon regarding jet-ski rentals, traffic issues and the overall safety of tourists visiting Pattaya.
He also said that plans to develop U-Tapao Rayong-Pattaya International airport is well underway and expects the new terminal building to be open for service mid-2013.
Ramps have been built leading to the beach allowing people with disabilities to be able to feel the sand and frolic in the sea.
Special areas on the beach will be reserved for the physically challenged. Pattaya plans to be the top destination for handicapped people.