Seven new marinas to support tourism
Marine tourism in the Gulf of Thailand is set to grow significantly as the government readies plans for seven new marinas.
Scott Finsten, harbour master of Ocean Marina Yacht Club Pattaya, said the new marina projects will be build along the east and west coasts.
Targeted locations are Chumphon, Trat and Sattahip district in Chon Buri, as well as on Koh Samui and in Prachuap Khiri Khan (possibly Pran Buri district).
But development is subject to further study, and some projects may be built by the private sector.
There are four marinas operating in the country, three of which are in the Gulf of Thailand: Ocean Marina Yacht Club Pattaya, Siam Royal View Koh Chang and Racer Marina in Pran Buri, with a total capacity of 615 berths. Phuket in the Andaman Sea has 736 berths.
Mr Finsten said the government aims to promote Thailand as a hub of marine tourism in Southeast Asia by investing in the Thailand Riviera project in the gulf at an estimated cost of 7 billion baht.
He pointed out that Pattaya on the eastern gulf coast is now able to link with Hua Hin on the west coast via ferry service, making Pattaya a travel hub on the east coast.
Pattaya is also growing as a business hub because of the government's Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) scheme.
Mr Finsten said the marine industry on the east coast is picking up steam, with charter and day trips up 20% year-on-year and the number of new boats sold up 10%.
"International yachts visiting the area are also increasing after the government allowed yacht visitors to stay 12 months per visit, up from less than six months in the past," he said.
Overall, Thailand has more berths than Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia combined. The cost of rental, maintenance and services is also lower in Thailand.
With about 30% lower expense, Thailand has a chance to become a marine tourism hub in the region, Mr Finsten said.
"At Ocean Marina Yacht Club Pattaya, we are investing about 100 million baht in expanding berth capacity and services, which will be completed in August this year," he said. "Once completed, we will be able to cater to the increased demand by raising berths by 15% from 380 currently to 440 berths."
Pattaya's popularity as a seaside destination is at an all-time high, with more than 14 million visitors in 2017. The figure is set to rise further with planned additional capacity at U-tapao airport and as the EEC starts to take shape.
Ocean Marina said it invests more than 10 million baht each year to host the Ocean Marina Pattaya Boat Show, a key platform to boost business and tourism in the region.
This year's 7th Ocean Marina Pattaya Boat Show is scheduled for Nov 29-Dec 2 and is expected to generate more than 2 billion baht for the industry.
Napong Paripontpochanapisuti, acting managing director of Ocean Property Co, said the boat show has shown steady growth over the last six years, with the number of visitors reaching a record high in 2017 of nearly 6,000, up 23% from the year before.
Last year, Ocean Marina Yacht Club Pattaya took in 200 million baht in revenue. The club expects 10% growth this year.