THAILAND - The number of tourists, both local and foreign, visiting Pattaya is now projected to drop to 7.5 million this year from 9 million last year because of the prolonged political turmoil.
Tourism revenue in the city is forecast to decline to Bt70 billion (S$27 billion) this year from Bt85 billion in 2013.
Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome said yesterday that it was difficult to raise hopes high on tourist numbers at this time of uncertainty.
The old projection was to match last year's tourist numbers, but the escalating political scenario led to the downward revision. In a peaceful situation, arrivals from local and foreign markets should reach 10 million. About 70 per cent are foreign.
This quarter has seen a loss of 30 per cent in arrivals from 3.5 million a year ago and 30 per in cent in tourism revenue from Bt35 billion.
Pattaya has suffered from the political tension in Bangkok because the resort city is combined in tour packages for foreigners with the capital. Many foreigners chose to enjoy shopping and sightseeing at the Grand Palace in Bangkok before heading to Pattaya to relax with sunbathing or sea activities. This group has disappeared, especially Chinese.
During Chinese New Year, for example, inbound operators expected to receive 300 tour groups from China, but handled only 60. The major problem was that they were worried about travel insurance, which does not cover political chaos.
Occupancy remains good, averaging 80 per cent on weekends, thanks to local seminars that moved from Bangkok after it was hit by political demonstrations.
However, the city has to deal with price-cutting by unregistered hotels offering accommodation for Bt1,200-Bt1,500 a night.
To revitalise the city, the administration will focus more on local tourists to offset the missing foreigners. Thai tourists are targeted to increase to 40 per cent of the total this year. Activities are being planned to attract them.
One of the highlights is the 13th Pattaya Music Festival, which will be held from March 21-23. The three days are hoped to bring in more than 350,000 travellers and almost Bt700 million in spending.
The festival will showcase more than 90 music bands, mainly local ones, playing on six stages. Bands from such places as South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan have not confirmed their participation, partly out of fear of the political hostilities.