Pattaya hotel occupancy rates remain stable after a crackdown on Chinese “zero-baht” tours and the city should start to see more revenue from mainland visitors, the city’s top business leader said.
Sinchai Wattanasartsathorn, president of the Pattaya Business & Tourism Association, said in an interview that there are still plenty of Chinese tourists coming to Pattaya, but since the clampdown on cheap tours last month, those visitors are staying in better hotels and spending more money here.
“Zero-baht” tours have been popular with Chinese tour agencies for a decade, offering flights and hotel accommodations in Thailand for little or no money down. Visitors are then paraded to a string of overpriced shopping malls, jewelry shops and restaurants where the agents get kickbacks to recover their costs.
The government cracked down on such tours and seized 13 million baht in assets from one of the largest tour agencies and bus operators, putting the segment into deep freeze.
Sinchai said while a drop in Chinese tourists in Pattaya was obvious, overall hotel occupancy remained “stable”, although not elaborating as to what percent.
“The majority of the businesses generating cash from these particular tour groups were ‘ghost hotels’,” Sinchai said, referring to cheap lodgings that only accept tour groups. “Now that those tours are gone, the groups are directed to standard hotels where they can spend their money on local businesses, which is good for everyone.”
The fact that the swarms of Chinese coming on tours that contributed virtually no revenue to the local economy was a sore spot among local city and tourism officials. Now they’re sure not only will the economics improve, but Thailand’s tourism image as well.
“There will be no more convincing tourists, especially the Chinese, to limit where they spend their holidays and no designated accommodations, which practically means that they can stay where they wish,” Sinchai said. “And the quality of tourism will improve since there will be no tour operators around to take advantage of the massive numbers of visitors they attract on a yearly basis.”