Following Songkran binge, Pattaya hotels exhale for Wan Lai
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Following Songkran binge, Pattaya hotels exhale for Wan Lai

Tourists throng Pattaya beach town in Chon Buri on Friday to attend the
Tourists throng Pattaya beach town in Chon Buri on Friday to attend the "Wan Lai Songkran festival". (Photo: Chaiyot Pupattanapong)

Hotels in Pattaya and nearby provinces have recorded lower occupancy rates during the "Wan Lai Songkran festival", while hoteliers noted weaknesses in the promotional strategy for the 21-day Songkran celebration.

Morrakot Kuldilok, president of the eastern chapter of the Thai Hotels Association (THA), said the occupancy rate in Pattaya this weekend should reach 70% as Wan Lai -- the late Songkran celebration -- is scheduled in many areas from April 16-21, including Bang Saen, Na Kluea, and at major shopping malls in Pattaya.

The occupancy rate should drop from more than 90% during the peak travel period on April 13-14, she said.

However, Ms Morrakot said hotels expect a large number of last-minute bookings during this weekend.

A lot of visitors to the Wan Lai festival are young travellers from the area and nearby provinces opting for budget hotels, while some of them make day trips.

She said even second-tier provinces in the region, such as Chanthaburi, are seeing tourists flock to its Wan Lai events.

"Despite a sluggish economy, domestic tourists are still allocating a travel budget and visiting Pattaya because of various activities and accommodation options, including several budget choices," said Ms Morrakot.

However, families that are repeat guests at 4-star or 5-star hotels already checked out after the major Songkran events ended, she said.

During the long holiday, Ms Morrakot said most hotels were fully operational, including those focused on large tour groups as international tourism sentiment significantly improved.

Despite a high occupancy rate, the average daily room rate in Pattaya is still less than the average in 2019, she said.

Ms Morrakot said revenue is estimated to be at 80% of the 2019 tally, attributed to a slow recovery of flights.

She said the government's 21-day Songkran promotion did not have an effective strategy and most events nationwide were not unique, lacking a good story to attract tourists.

"Compared with Pattaya's Fireworks Festival, which was a key draw for tourists, many Songkran events were unable to lure tourists," said Ms Morrakot.

Boonkerd Suksrikarn, general manager of Sunbeam Hotel in Pattaya and the association's former vice-president, said the Wan Lai festival in Chon Buri is not well-known by foreigners.

Most attendees are locals and expatriates, he said.

Mr Boonkerd said the celebrations should be elevated to a larger scale, with unique storytelling and appealing cultural content to lure foreign tourists.

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