It was only last month that I had a fascinating interview with local entrepreneur Mike Weller who was gushing at just how big the Indian opportunity now is in Pattaya.
I was a bit taken back by posters across the social networks where I shared the post that simply would not accept the Indians were bringing any value to Pattaya. Claiming Thailand would regret squeezing out the Western market and turning to the Chinese and Indians. It came across as sour grapes to me and also a delusion of grandeur from many of the Brits and Aussies that for some reason hold themselves on such a high global status.
I am a Brit and in the past probably have fallen victim to such delusions but am now refocused and aligned to the shift in the global market. I can see just how real this Chinese and Indian market has become and see no reason for it to not to continue growing.
It is well documented what is happening in Thailand with the Chinese tourist and investor but still, the Indian market gets skirted over by many who refuse to accept anything other than the stereotypical images.
But they are wrong to do so and I think the winners in Pattaya will be those that embrace the Indian market as there is an increasing percentage who have good money in the pocket and are ready to spend it.
Just this week I was with a hotel developer and they exactly spoke of the shift in investors that parallel what we are seeing through tourism. They said before the Western market was good but now that has cooled, then the Russians came but that too has eased off; both due to changes in exchange rates from their end. Then the Chinese started to buy but as their exchange rates became less strong against the baht and getting money out of their country that slowed, but now has recovered somewhat. He then said what others have also been saying, that the Indians were now becoming a very important market for selling too.
Personally just looking around the streets of Pattaya I feel we need a saviour as it is particularly quiet and what I am seeing is younger Indian tourists that look well dressed and certainly not the type to share one bottle of water between a few of them.
The Indians are also less superstitious and volatile as a traveller compared to the Chinese. The Chinese are huge on safety and when the tragic boat incident happened in Phuket, overnight the Chinese tourist numbers slumped over safety concerns for Thailand. The Chinese Government are also incredibly powerful at controlling who does what and could cut numbers coming into Thailand in a flash.
Whilst many restaurants are looking to target the F.I.T (Free Independent Traveler) Chinese tourist, I personally think the Indian tourist is a better fit for Western-type business in town. Yet no one seems to be reaching out to them due to the wrong stereotypical images that they just cannot shake off.
What are the numbers?
According to Tourism Authority of Thailand, Indian arrivals into Thailand is expected to reach 5 million by 2023 (By contrast 1 million Brits visit Thailand each year).
Arrivals from India surged by more than 12% year-on-year to 1.43 million in the first 11 months of 2018, generating 63 billion baht in tourism income, up 31.2%, outpacing all other originating countries.
Tanes Petsuwan, deputy governor for marketing communications at the TAT, said India is now one of the top 10 sources of visitor arrivals for Thailand.
Factors contributing to the growth include the rise in middle-income Indians and a short travel time of 3-4 hours by air.
Besides Bangkok, Pattaya is a key region for Indian visitors.
Interesting times indeed for Pattaya but I cannot but think the Western market needs to embrace the Indian tourist if they wish to take advantage of this opportunity presenting itself.