Pattaya, Thailand – Pattaya is facing new challenges as the flow of Chinese tourists, once a dominant force, dwindles. The President of the Pattaya Business and Tourism Association (PBTA) Boonanan Pattanasin, has highlighted the evolving dynamics of this popular travel hub on August 28.
For years, Pattaya has drawn in millions of Chinese tourists, acting as a substantial economic contributor. However, recent stringent visa regulations and concerns about potentially unaccounted Chinese funds have triggered a notable drop in these figures. In the interest of curbing gray-market financial activities, tighter regulations and meticulous vetting procedures have been implemented, leading to a decline in tourist numbers.
Boonanan recognized that this downturn can be attributed to a combination of factors, including decreased flight availability and rising airfares. This trend, affecting the broader Thai tourism landscape, is also influencing Pattaya. To combat these challenges, collaborative strategies have been launched involving public and private sectors, along with airlines, to boost flight capacity at U-Tapao International Airport and promote tourism during the upcoming high season.
The shifting behavior of Chinese visitors is evident, with a growing preference for independent travel (FIT) over group tours. Nonetheless, group tours still constitute a considerable 40% of the total Chinese visitors. Despite this, Pattaya has witnessed a noticeable decline in Chinese tourist arrivals, which has left a mark on hotel occupancy rates.
Pattaya’s situation is further complicated by its airport’s limitations. While U-Tapao International Airport serves as a gateway, its flight options are limited. Nevertheless, Chinese tourists remain pivotal to Pattaya’s economic fabric, supporting local businesses both as FIT travelers and group tourists.
In a bid to rejuvenate the industry, the Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Yuthasak Supasorn, has set an ambitious goal of revitalizing the sector to 80% of its 2019 levels. This objective, if achieved, could result in a remarkable revenue of 2.38 trillion baht, accommodating 25 million international tourists and 9.9 million domestic travelers. This revitalization endeavor aspires to strike a delicate balance between economic growth, social welfare, and environmental preservation.
Recent tourism trends in Thailand suggest encouraging growth, with a steady stream of foreign visitors. Notably, Vietnamese tourists have spearheaded this trend, contributing to a 14.40% increase, followed by South Korean and Indian tourists at 9.27% and 7.17% respectively. These statistics bode well for the remainder of 2023, hinting at a robust visitor turnout primarily from the ASEAN, East Asian, and South Asian regions.