It used to be that “high season” – the middle of October through the end of Songkran in April – was when Pattaya’s hotels were full, the beaches packed and shopping malls bustling. But high season hasn’t resembled what people remember for years.
This year marks another high season in which hotels are, if not happy, then relieved to say they are “getting by.” It seems that, in 21st century Thailand, there is always something to derail good fortune.
Tourist arrivals are down again this year.
In 2010, it was deadly riots in Bangkok. In 2011, it was calamitous nationwide flooding. In 2013, Bangkok was “shut down” by street protests. And, in 2014, it’s been more protests, a military coup and, most recently, a crashing Russian ruble.
Tourists from Russia – who accounted for 6 percent of all tourists nationwide last year and a far higher percentage in Pattaya – are off 5.9 percent this year through November. With the ruble’s historic depreciation, Russian arrivals fell 21 percent in November and 19 percent in October. December likely will see similar drops, if not more.
Arrivals from China are off 5.9 percent this year as well while tourists from Hong Kong are down 24 percent, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand. Japanese visits are off 18.9 percent and Taiwanese arrivals by 15 percent.
Pattaya’s third major market, after North Asia and Russia – India – is down 11 percent this year.
The result has been lots of empty hotel rooms in Pattaya. Average hotel occupancy is running 60-70 percent, compared with last year’s 80-90 percent. Hotels dependent upon the Russian trade – such as the Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort – and package tours are hurting the worst.
The Holiday Inn Pattaya, which this season opened up a shiny new tower with 250 more rooms, is “getting by,” management says, although there are signs of improvement each day. The Amari Orchid Resort & Tower says it’s clawing its way back from last year’s levels, but the Hilton Pattaya admits its still lagging even last year’s dismal numbers.
Only the Dusit Thani Hotel, which gets many Thai tourists, reported doing well.
Advance bookings are off across the board and package tourists – who often visit Bangkok before coming to the Eastern Seaboard – have dropped to minimal levels, in part because of continuing martial law in Bangkok and the rest of the country.