Pattaya has always had a low season with it traditionally running from the start of March until the end of October. However, Songkran in April has still managed to provide a boost even if it was only for a week or two. The low season appears to be getting longer with fewer and fewer western tourists coming during this period and the traditional high season still falls well short of where it used to be a decade ago – certainly in the case of longer-term tourists from Europe, the US and Australia.
It would be inaccurate to say the tourist numbers have dropped in the last decade, in fact, they have increased, but most come from China, India and Russian and, as a rule, spend little of their money in local bars, restaurants and shops. Pattaya recently came 14th in Mastercard’s Global Destination Report, beating several other famous destinations. The lack of western numbers has been devastating for bars, restaurants and other businesses in the city that rely on westerners. Anyone who has lived in Pattaya for any length of time will tell you that this low season is particularly bad and many businesses are being forced to close.
Things have got so bad that one local food supplier estimated that they had lost around 100 customers this low season. Of course, falls to this degree are unusual, but it illustrates that Pattaya is crying out for a lifeline when it comes to westerners. The closure of all these bars and restaurants does make room for others to thrive in what was arguably a period of over-supply. These bars and restaurants will need to up their game if they are to survive. If they do, they are likely to prosper.
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What is the reason for the declining numbers?
The reason for the falling numbers is something that has been discussed at length on many forums. Most of the reasons given follow the same train of thought. The strength of the Thai Baht along with other currencies being weak, has made Thailand an expensive place to visit with cheaper alternatives such as Vietnam and Cambodia, increasing in popularity.
Of course, the tightening up of visas hasn’t helped with extended stays in Thailand being harder to achieve with frequently used border runs being a thing of the past. The fact that many expats are being forced to return to their home countries due to visa and financial issues only exasperate the already critical situation. Many people are asking the question, “Does Thailand really want us?” Of course, they do, they are just hiding it quite well!
What can be done?
This is the $64,000 question. The Thai Baht looks unlikely to weaken anytime soon, and a relaxing of the visa situation for westerners seems equally improbable. With the emphasis still being on “quality tourists”, it is probably down to the bars and restaurants to offer something different to entice people in and get people talking about how great Pattaya is when they go home. Fortunately, this low season looks to be boosted by several sporting events that will be shown in bars across the city.
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Premier League and Championship Football
The English football season is now well underway and is always a boost for many of the British run pubs and bars. With Saturdays and Sunday both usually showing at least two games each week this helps to not only get people in but keep them too. Although the timing of midweek games is not ideal, this too can play an important role in bars that are open 24-hours. The return of the Champions League will also prove to be a boost too.
Bundesliga Football and other Domestic European Football
Although not as popular with Thais and other nationalities, German Bundesliga football certainly has a following, even if it is only amongst the German contingent in the city. It certainly gives a boost to bars in the Naklua area and with Ligue 1, La Liga and Serie A all having a following, this can have a more significant input.
The Rugby World Cup
The Rugby World Cup gets underway on 20 September and is being held in Japan meaning that the timings of the games will suit Thailand. With many western European countries taking part including England, France and Italy plus South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, it gives bars another opportunity to receive a boost during an otherwise quiet period.
The Ashes – Cricket
Although not one [PL1] of the most universally liked sports around, few would argue that the Ashes doesn’t capture the imagination of the Brits and Aussies. We are now nearly halfway through the series, but the timings of the matches will suit many of the bars and pubs in around Pattaya. Social media has been reporting that The Ashes Cricket has been a big draw for many sports bars in the city. We know that these groups renowned for their drinking so landlords and bar owners will be rubbing their hands!
American Football and American Sport
Again, not one of the most popular sports but the NFL has a healthy following amongst the Americans and the new season is about to get underway. With games lasting up to three hours, they too are a great way of getting and keeping people in the bar. In a similar manner to midweek football, the timings certainly don’t suit everyone. Baseball and basketball are also due to start shortly, which also have a following.
TAT and Sport in Pattaya
It appears that TAT has been doing some brainstorming and have also seen the opportunities that sport could bring to Pattaya. Last month we saw the Dragon Boat World Championship held at Mabprachan Lake which attracted a reasonable following and the Pattaya Marathon always has a good turnout. Unfortunately, PTT Thailand Open (tennis) is now defunct, but this also brought people to the city as does the annual Honda LPGA Thailand, held in February each year. Pattaya frequently hosts international jetski, windsurfing and beach volleyball competitions that also attract larger numbers with a squash championship also being held in the city.
Fortunately, most years have some global sporting events being held with the football European Championships coming next year. However, exploring the opportunity of bringing more sports to Pattaya seems like a fantastic prospect and might add Pattaya to the global sporting map.