Cut ties with Bangkok tours, mayor tells travel agents

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Pattaya’s mayor wants the city’s tourism industry to cut ties with problem-plagued Bangkok and create original tour packages focusing on the sea, sports and families.

Saying the city is facing a 30 percent drop in tourism due to the historic depreciation of the ruble, Pattaya must come up with creative ways to offset the loss of its usual number of Russian visitors.

Koh Larn is still a popular destination, but tourist numbers are down.Koh Larn is still a popular destination, but tourist numbers are down.

The plunging ruble – which earlier hit all-time lows against the dollar, euro and other currencies – has forced Russians to stay at home. Year on year, Russian arrivals to Thailand tumbled 23.2 percent in November and 23.2 percent in October. For the year through Nov. 30, Russian arrivals are down 4.9 percent.

While Russians comprised just 6 percent of visitors to all of Thailand, they represent a much-larger share for Pattaya. Itthiphol indicated hotel bookings are off 40 percent due to the Russian decline.

The other reason for the decline is Pattaya’s connection to Bangkok-based tours. Many of the package tourists from Pattaya’s other big markets – China and India – travel on group tours that first make stops in the capital. But with this year’s political protests, military coup, international travel warnings and martial law, Bangkok has lost its appeal for most of North Asia and the Subcontinent.

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 18.9 percent and Taiwanese arrivals by 15 percent. India is down 11 percent this year.

On Oct. 29, Pattaya Business & Tourism Association President Sinchai Wattanasartsathorn estimated Pattaya would see a 20 percent decline to eight million visitors from 2013’s 10 million tourists. Exactly two months later, Itthiphol said that number could come in closer to seven million.

The mayor suggested travel companies create original tours that include no Bangkok stops and focus on “sea, sports and family.”

More than 70 percent of Pattaya’s visitors are foreign, but Thais make up a growing number of tourists and now account for almost 30 percent of all visitors, he said.

He said the city has a full slate of activities scheduled to bring tourists to the city as well, including the Chinese New Year festival, the International Tennis Tournament, LPGA golf tournament and more.

Those events are aimed at the Thai market, he said.