Chao Phraya cruise operators are not raising their prices for the high season because of sluggish tourism growth amid fierce competition.
Charter cruises for business clients have posted a stronger recovery.
Poowadee Kunpalin, managing director of Chaophraya Cruise and vice-president of the Chao Phraya River Tourism Association, said business travellers have recovered, notably from South Korea and European countries.
Ms Poowadee said these are mostly high-spending groups that require maximum services, such as all-inclusive prices for unlimited beverages and buffets.
She said independent tourists accounted for 60-70% on daily cruises, compared with 80-90% prior to the pandemic.
Ms Poowadee said Chaophraya Cruise operates only one outing per day for independent tourists, with another for chartered bookings. There were at least two or more private cruises scheduled daily before the pandemic, she said.
The company is selling cruise packages at a 10-20% lower rate than in 2019 because of slow demand from inbound tourists, while domestic tourists want to save their money for other purposes, such as overseas trips, she said.
With more competitors in the cruise sector, coupled with a tepid economy that is weighing on tourism spending, operators are unable to raise prices to the same level as before the pandemic, said Ms Poowadee.
The revenue of cruise operators this year should be less than the total in 2019 as fuel and food prices spiked, she said.
To increase tourism activities, the Tourism Authority of Thailand is hosting Vijit Chao Phraya 2023, a light show and cultural performance along the Chao Phraya River this month.
Tourism and Sports Minister Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol said the event should help stimulate restaurants, boat services and hotels along the river.
Ms Sudawan said the ministry expects tourism revenue of 600 million baht from the event, with more than 400,000 visitors during the festival.
Ms Poowadee said it is suitable for the government to focus on soft power and festivals.
She agreed with the goal of hosting a month-long water festival across Thailand as it should help stimulate tourism revenue. The activities offer tourists more choices to join events on days other the Songkran festival, said Ms Poowadee.
She said the government should promote the low season by hosting festivals and events. For example, it could reschedule Vijit Chao Phraya to October or November, which usually have fewer tourists than December.