A market research report published by the specialist hospitality consulting firm C9 Hotelworks has revealed that Pattaya is on course for a record year in terms of tourist numbers. The company predicts that in 2012, the city is on course to break through the 8 million visitors-a-year barrier, indicating that Pattaya is appealing to a broad market.

The report reveals that in 2011, Pattaya hotel occupancy hit 66% – a 9% rise from 2010 and up 17% since 2009. It also highlighted the increasing importance of Pattaya’s U-Tapao International Airport in encouraging arrivals. Although overall flight and arrival numbers are still small, there has been significant growth over the past four years with international arrivals increasing a staggering 206% year-on-year in 2011.

The report identifies the 2006 opening of Suvarnabhumi Airport as the jumping off point for the stellar growth in Pattaya tourism. The ease of access from the airport to highways with quick route to Pattaya heralded the start of a boom that shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the very opposite is true, with Pattaya having broadened its appeal. It has gone from a city that originally focused on raucous entertainment offerings for US servicemen on R&R from serving in Vietnam to a destination with appeal to the entire tourist market.

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This opening up of Pattaya to family visitors has not happened by accident. The city authorities and tourist chiefs have focused a great deal of energy in developing Pattaya as an Asian city of the future. There have been high levels of investment in infrastructure improvements and support for tourist attractions which have been rewarded with a flood of private capital as evidenced by the current building of branded theme parks in Greater Pattaya.

The improvements have led to a sharp rise in the number of domestic tourists with more Thai visitors opting for Pattaya for a family holiday. Increases in domestic visitors is likely to be a significant driving force for Pattaya tourism in the coming years as the growth of the Thai middle classes leads to a rise in the number of holidays.

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Buoyed by the recent impressive levels of tourist growth, the city leaders are eyeing the economic integration of the Asean community in 2015 as another opportunity. Pattaya is keen to position itself as a manufacturing, commercial and tourist hub and use the bringing together of some of Asia’s most successful economies to maintain the impetus in the city’s development.

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