Tourism down 20% in 2014, high season looking disappointing, PBTA says

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Months of street protests and the subsequent military coup have cost Pattaya more than 10 billion baht in tourism-related revenue, the Pattaya Business & Tourism Association said.

Speaking at the PBTA’s Oct. 29 meeting at the Grand Bella Hotel, association President Sinchai Wattanasartsathorn said the biggest hit has come from the marked decline in tourists from China and Russia.

Sinchai Wattanasatsatorn President of Pattaya Business & Tourism Association (PBTA)Sinchai Wattanasatsatorn President of Pattaya Business & Tourism Association (PBTA)

In the first nine months of the year, Pattaya has seen only 6 million visitors, down about two million during the same period last year. Last year Pattaya attracted nearly 10 million tourists, generating 105 billion baht.

The top five nationalities to visit Pattaya last year were Russian (1.8 million), Chinese (1.2 million), Eastern Europe (400,000), Germany (300,000) and Indonesian (290,000)

This year, he said, has been the slowest in three years.

Suladda Sarutilavan, Director of Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Pattaya office, says her staff is focusing on building back the European market.Suladda Sarutilavan, Director of Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Pattaya office, says her staff is focusing on building back the European market.

Suladda Sarutilavan, Director of Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Pattaya office, said her staff is focusing on building back the European market.

“The Russian and Chinese market has dropped a lot in a short period of time, which is why we are preparing a marketing plan for 2015 focusing on the Eastern European tourism market instead,” she said. “Other than Europe, TAT is also planning to focus on the ASEAN market, especially Indonesia.”

From early bookings, the coming high season also will be disappointing, Suladda said. Bookings are down 10-70 percent, depending on market.

As a result, many hotels have put on special promotions, especially for 2015, giving discounts and accommodation packages 10-20 percent off. The promotions are focused on the Chinese market for two-night stays and trips, hoping that they will be able to pull the Chinese crowd back to Thailand again next year.

As for Russians, domestic problems at home are keeping many from traveling, a slowdown expected to last into next year. The ruble has been crushed by sanctions leveled against Russia for its incursion into Ukraine. Russians, as a result, don’t have the economic power to travel as they did in recent years.

The one bright spot has been that Thai domestic tourism has not dropped significantly. Thai visitors to Pattaya were off only 100,000 to 2.8 million in the first nine months of this year, TAT said.

Sanpech Supabowornsthian President of Thai Hotel Association (THA)Sanpech Supabowornsthian President of Thai Hotel Association (THA) Eastern Chapter

However, Sanpech Supabowornsthian, president of the Thai Hotels Association Eastern Chapter, said the Pattaya market, with 139,000 rooms, is now “over-supplied.” He said the government needs to take steps to limit additional hotel capacity coming online.

He also urged other measures to spur tourism, such as recent moves to offer free three-month visas for Chinese tourists. He said the private sector needs to be encouraged to attend trade shows and more marketing.