Anchors aweigh as Thai interest in yachting reaches high tide
Luxury yachting has become a tourism driver on the Eastern Seaboard as more and more Thais are drawn to the big boats.
Napong Paripontpochanapisuti, managing director of Ocean Property Plc, the operator of Ocean Marina Yacht Club Pattaya, said the number of Thais who enjoy yachting in Pattaya has shown a combined 90% increase over the past five years.
"Thais nowadays are more interested in yachting and many also own the boats, putting yacht ownership among Thais at an average of 10% growth a year," Mr Napong said.
The Ocean Marina Yacht Club's capacity is 560 boats, consisting of 450 in-water and 110 onshore spots. At present, 450 boats are berthed at the marina, including over 200 Thai-flagged vessels.
According to the club's statistics, the number of tourists who went on boat trips in the first half of 2019 rose by 2% from the same period last year. Full-year growth is estimated at 5-10%, Mr Napong said.
Some 40% of the tourists were Chinese, followed by South Koreans at 35%. Thai tourists ranked third at 20%.
Last year, about 1,000 daily tourists used travel services from 67 charter boats based at the Ocean Marina Yacht Club and spent 3,000 baht per person, generating 1.1 billion baht in revenue. The number of visitors was up 20% from the year before.
Scott Finsten, harbour master of the Ocean Marina Yacht Club, said Pattaya has emerged as a yachting destination with more room to grow compared with Phuket, another popular site for yachting tourism.
Increased investment and new business related to the Eastern Economic Corridor, including improvements in land transport from Bangkok, high-speed rail links and the U-tapao airport expansion, should broaden business opportunity in the eastern provinces, Mr Finsten said.
"So the new trendy leisure activities such as yachting will play a vital role in creating a new perspective for Pattaya as a more family-friendly destination and a high-end market," he said.
Ocean Property is set to organise the 8th Ocean Marina Pattaya Boat Show in November at the Ocean Marina Yacht Club.
The number of visitors this year is expected to rise by 20% from about 6,000 last year. Some 70% of visitors are Thais, especially from Bangkok and Pattaya.
Besides the Ocean Marina Pattaya Boat Show, Thailand also puts on another large boat show, the Thailand Yacht Show in Phuket.