This November, the international jet set community will descend on the tropical shores of Pattaya over four sun-soaked days, for the annual Ocean Marina Pattaya Boat Show. Scheduled for 21 until 24 November 2019 at the Ocean Marina Yacht Club (OMYC), the event is expected to draw thousands of visitors to Thailand’s east coast, for a unique nautical event that’s a boon for local tourism.
For sailors, cruisers, socialites and enthusiasts alike, the event will be a real treat. This year’s show will feature as many as 40 vessels from leading international brands and brokers, along with an array of marine products, accessories and gadgets. Luxury properties, supercars and other stellar attractions are set to catch the eye and tempt the wallet. The event will also feature exhibitions, demonstrations, free cruises aboard luxury yachts, fashion shows, pop-up restaurants and a wide range of other family-friendly activities.
For marine tourism on Thailand’s eastern coast, the event represents an annual windfall; last year’s Ocean Marina Pattaya Boat Show brought in a reported 2.5 billion baht. Last year, approximately 6,000 people attended the show, which represented a steady increase on the previous year. First launched in 2012, Ocean Marina Pattaya Boat Show has become one of Thailand’s signature marine events, with attendance increasing by a massive 183 per cent since the inaugural show.
Napong Paripontpochanapisuti is the managing director of Ocean Property, which co-organises the event. He and his team have been a driving force in the growth of marine tourism in Thailand; he sees the event as a valuable showcase for the industry. “We invest more than 10 million baht (US$3.2 million) each year in developing the show and marketing it overseas and throughout Thailand, and we are targeting a 20 per cent growth in the number of visitors this year,” said Napong.
“Our aim is for the show to be a platform for the industry, to promote marine-related businesses and services, yachting tourism, and showcase the stunning coastline and islands along Thailand’s east coast,” he added.
The event is a useful barometer for wider trends in the industry, with total numbers of tourists joining boat trips at OMYC up 2 per cent year-on-year. According to Scott Finsten, who is the harbour master of OMYC, this demographic comprises both international and domestic clients. “Chinese and Korean tourists remain the top day trippers, but what is encouraging is the number of Thais who are enjoying time on the water,” said Finsten.
Despite its growing popularity, industry protagonists maintain that yachting in Thailand remains a largely untapped resource for tourism operators. “Countries such as Greece, which is famous for its established charter industry; and Australia, which has a large population of domestic boat owners; outperform Thailand currently – yet neither have the tourism numbers of Thailand,” said Finsten in relation to the future potential for development around yachts and cruises in Thailand.
He added: “Thailand expects to welcome approximately 40 million international visitors this year and Pattaya in the region of 14 million – these numbers underscore the huge potential for yachting tourism in Thailand and this is something OMYC are focused on developing.”
The east coast of Thailand is garnering a reputation as the ‘next big thing’. Investment in projects such as the Eastern Economic Corridor, along with planned road, rail and air infrastructure improvements are expected to significantly raise the status and capacity of leisure travel in the region. With its many and varied attractions, along with a growing client and investor base, marine tourism, cruises and yacht trips on Thailand’s eastern shores are set to make a big splash in the coming years.