“Sailing”, according to Henry Beard and Roy McKie, in their Dictionary for Landlubbers (1981), “is the fine art of getting wet and becoming ill while going nowhere at great expense”. What a difference some 35 years make. Given, the Dictionary’s theme still has some validity, in 2013, however, there is an exponential surge in sailing, boating and water sports world-wide. Thailand, with some of the world’s best coast-lines and waterways, is in the vanguard of this remarkable interest.
Regattas up and down the littoral, marinas appearing everywhere and, most importantly, all manner of craft, from kayaks to super maxi yachts are coming to the Kingdom in ever-increasing numbers, finding the ambience, warm seas and, not least, the Thai culture and an incomparable human welcoming attitude all major attractions.
(From left): Prommate Nathomtong, Director, Service Promotion Division, Tourism Authority of Thailand; Scott Finsten, Harbour Master, Ocean Marina Yacht Club; Wilaiwan Thawitsri, Tourism Authority of Thailand Deputy Governor for Tourism Products & Business; Supatra Angkawinijwong, Deputy Managing Director, Ocean Property ; and a model from Edox, pose at a press conference to announce this year’s Pattaya Boat Show.
Pattaya, as one of the world’s most-favoured marine resorts advances a few more knots (to borrow from the marine jargon) this coming weekend, when the Ocean Marina Yacht Club in na-Jomtien will host its second Pattaya Boat Show which will take place from 22-24 November.
There will be over 100 exhibitors from boating, marine tourism, and the leisure and life-style business sectors from Thailand and overseas. For visitors, of whom about 3,000 are expected, there is a packed program of onshore and on-water activities and entertainment planned. This will include free sailing and hands-on kayak rides, lucky draws, cocktail parties, Dragon Boat races and a marina-side beer garden and festival with a live band.
The 2013 Boat Show will feature the Pattya,-Jomtien environs and will reinforce the Eastern Seaboard as the foremost focus for marine tourism in South East Asia.
Coinciding with the launch of this, the second Ocean Marina Pattaya Boat Show, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has initiated a strategy to promote high-end tourism in Chonburi Province, which includes the Eastern Seaboard, working closely with the marine tourism sector on Thailand’s east coast. TAT predicts that with the opening of the Asean Economic Community in 2015, tourism numbers in the area are set to increase 10%.
Ocean Marina Yacht Club will host the 2nd annual Pattaya Boat Show from Nov. 22-24.
At a recently-held press briefing at the Ocean Marina, Supatra Angkawinijwong, deputy managing director of main sponsor the Ocean Property, commented, “This is the second year for the Ocean Marina Pattaya Boat Show. We wish to support the growth of marine leisure tourism in the region and as the number of yachts at Ocean Marina continue to increase, we plan to expand the number of berths again in the near future. Ocean Marina is already the largest marina in South East Asia and we plan to increase our capacity in line with the expectations of the Economic Community in 2015.
“In previous years,” she continued, “the ratio of yacht owners at Ocean Marina Yacht Club was 80% foreigners and 20% Thai. However, last year we saw a significant change and Thai yacht ownership increased from 20% to 38%. This is a clear indicator that more Thais are enjoying the marine lifestyle and we expect that trend to continue.”
Harbour Master of the Marina, Scott Fensten, commented, “In 2012 the Ocean Marina Pattaya Boat Show generated THB 90 million revenue for the marine tourism industry. Following the first year’s success, we are confident that the second year will deliver more quality and be even bigger. We have expanded the on- water and onshore exhibition area to a total of 2,600sq.m., and have strong support from exhibitors in marine tourism and life-style business sectors including leading yacht brands, super bikes, super cars, luxury property and many other interested parties.”
Wilaiwan Thawitsri, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Deputy Governor for Tourism Products and Business, also participating in the press briefing, revealed that, “Thailand is a popular destination for marine tourists with many chartering yachts and enjoying Thailand’s cruising grounds and those of neighbouring countries. Thailand has a well-developed marine infrastructure with international-standard marinas that can cater for all sizes of yachts, quality yacht maintenance services and skilled craftsmen. When these are all combined the marine leisure tourism sector generates considerable revenue for Thailand.”
Pattaya has become a top marine tourism destination in Thailand, in large part due to presence of the world-class Ocean Marina Yacht Club. According to information from the TAT, yacht brokers predict that the number of yachts visiting Thailand will increase dramatically by at least 31.25%, to approximately 2,100 yachts, by 2016.
In the overall tourism and hospitality industry, TAT has identified marine tourism as a high-end segment, with marine tourists spending more than regular tourists, frequently staying in five stars resorts and dining in upscale restaurants. They choose to spend on high-end products including fashion, jewelry and accessories, and in general stay in Thailand for longer periods.
According to the TAT, Thailand welcomes 110 super-yachts each year and these are the highest tourism spenders. TAT predicts that by 2016, 190 super-yachts will visit Thailand annually, a growth of 72.72%, and generate significant income for Thailand’s marine industry.
The Gulf of Thailand’s popularity continues to grow with approximately 8.5 million international tourists per year visiting the three leading tourism destinations of Pattaya, Hua Hin and Koh Samui. This is expected to grow 10% year-on-year, in particular due to the high growth potential of neighbouring countries such Myanmar, Lao, Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore and China. Even tourism from the United States is expected to increase some 25 per cent next year.
As an aside to all the ongoing events, it is worth pointing out that some 20 years ago, the largest production yacht in the world at the time, the 40-metre maxi the Mirabella, built at the Ocean Marina facility by Finland’s Concorde Yachts, was launched – typically towed to the sea by two elephants! Of course, today’s maxis “dwarf” the Mirabella which still thrives around the Medierranean as a charter.
Furthermore, with an eye to the future, Thailand’s current crop of junior sailors in Optimist dinghies and Lasers have reached world standards and are even aiming at an Olympic berth in Rio.
So this weekend, come one and all to enter the hallowed – but now highly-accessible – world of marine leisure, from 22–24 November at the Ocean Marina. Entry to the splendid sea-front and on-water exhibitions is entirely free and open from 9.00 a.m. til late.
See you there!