TTM opens door to east Thailand tourism

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PATTAYA, 18 April 2018: Pattaya credited with being Thailand’s forerunner in beach tourism will host the annual Thailand Travel Mart mid June.

The show was hosted in Pattaya back in 2001, followed by decades in Bangkok before it moved to Chiang Mai in 2016 for a two-year stint.

Now the annual B2B event, that showcases travel content from across the country and neighbours in the Mekong Region, moves south to Pattaya’s Ocean Marina’s on Na Jomthien bay, 13 to 15 June.

A city by the sea with close to 50,000 hotel rooms, many of them in properties flying the brands of international chains, Pattaya is the nearest international beach resort to  Thailand’s main aviation gateway Suvarnabhumi International Airport.

Notorious for its glitzy entertainment and a raucous red light district, the resort is reinventing itself to appeal to families through themed hotels and water parks. It is also renowned for competition-standard golf courses and a variety of venues for brand launches; regional corporate incentives and conferences.

Blessed with exceptionally beautiful seascapes of islands clearly visible from five-star hotels that grace its three bays, Pattaya draw thousands of family travellers from the Thai capital and Asia, particularly China, Taiwan and South Korea.

Ocean Marina, the venue for TTM this year, happens to be Southeast Asia’s largest yacht marina that attracts regional regattas and a luxury clientele for its bare-boat charters.

So why host the Thailand Travel Mart in a destination that has breathed commercial success from its early days in the late 1960s?

One underlying reason for bringing the TTM back to Pattaya, is the recent launch of an ambitious USD 45 billion investment in Thailand’s eastern seaboard region.

Tagged the Eastern Economic Corridor, the region stretches from just north of Pattaya along the coast eastwards to Rayong and Chanthaburi provinces.

Showcasing Pattaya as a prime tourist destination at the heart of EEC plans and accessible from three international airports in central Thailand will present a big picture scenario to international buyers and media attending the TTM.

The timing is perfect to explore new travel content on a coastline from Pattaya all the way to the border with Cambodia in Trat province.

In the run-up to Thailand’s premier travel trade show, government announcements have spotlighted the development of the Eastern Economic Corridor that will require a vast infusion of investment over the next five years.

Just 36 km south of Pattaya, a massive development of U-Tapao airport is already underway. A fast-train rail line, that will link U-Tapao to Suvarnabhumi and Don Meuang airports in Bangkok, also gained approval during the first quarter of this year.

By 2023, the rail link will establish a transport triangle that will give travellers a choice of three airport gateways within a one-hour transfer by high-speed rail.

Investment in the overall Eastern Economic Corridor has reached USD9.3 billion since the master plan was approved in 2017.

Initially projects will turn U-Tapao into a major aviation hub linked to a motorway and in close proximity to deep-sea ports.  A high-speed rail link for passenger and cargo will connect the three gateway airports in central Thailand. Within the zone, sometimes referred to a “Greater Bangkok,” smart industries will be established compatible with the country’s 4.0 goals, which in turn will boost business tourism particularly corporate events, and exhibitions.

Linking U-Tapao with Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports, via a high-speed train will also help to alleviate passenger and aircraft congestion at the two Bangkok airports.

It will kick-start an expansion of airline services to U-Tapao and open up vast opportunities for travel planners to build new itineraries to explore the eastern seaboard all the way to the Cambodian border and beyond.

Already U-Tapao has undergone a terminal expansion to increase capacity to 3 million passengers a year and 5 million by 2020.

Today, airlines offer flights from 26 cities to U-Tapao, mainly in Asia. Qatar Airways introduced services last year that cuts the travel time for European tourists who can reach U-Tapao and the resorts of the eastern seaboard on a one-stop flight through Doha.

As more airlines fly to U-Tapao, tour operators have an opportunity to check out new destinations and create overland itineraries that explore the eastern seaboard and even resorts in neighbouring Cambodia.

Rayong provinces just 60 km east of U-Tapao airport is home to several beaches and islands that are already popular with tourists.

The 5 km-long Phala Beach, just 34 km from Rayong town, draws tourists to its resorts and beachfront restaurants, while the province’s Samet Island, further east, is renowned for its white sandy beaches and four-star resorts.

Further along the eastern coast, Trat’s small airport is the starting point for visitors heading for Chang Island with its up-market resorts located on four pristine beaches.

TTM buyers will have an opportunity to check out these options and explore itineraries that could combine a beach holiday on Thailand’s east coast with a visit to Siem Reap in Cambodia.

Already this year, resorts on Chang Island have reported an increase in European travellers visiting the island after a stay in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

After exploring Angkor Wat, Siem Reap’s World Heritage site, the trip to Chang Island in eastern Thailand is doable and relatively painless using two taxi transfers.  The first takes you to the Cambodia-Thailand border and the second to the ferry port in Trat province.

It costs around USD110 for the two taxi transfers, the ferry ride to Chang and the transfer to one of the island’s resorts.

The entire overland trip takes around nine hours, departing Siem Reap at 0630 and arriving on Chang Island by 1500. Two hours are needed to pass through the border checkpoints.

That’s just one option TTM buyers can explore to add new content to their Thailand and Mekong Region travel programmes.

Another option is reflected in the TTM+ 2018 theme that will focus on luxury and romance tourism under the tagline “Million Shades of Romance”.

Commenting on TTM in Pattaya, the Tourism Authority of Thailand governor, Yuthasak Supasorn said: “Thailand offers a wide array of attractions for luxurious and romantic travel. It features a rich culture and history, wonderful nature, pristine beaches, fantastic cuisine, a full range of tourism-related amenities and accommodation with experienced and innovative service personnel, and most importantly, the hospitality of the Thai people.

“All these factors come together to make Thailand such a great destination to personalise and fulfil a couple’s dream romance destination.”

Pre and post tours will focus on Rayong, Chanthaburi and Trat provinces and the neighbouring GMS country of Cambodia, which borders Trat province and is easily accessible by both road and marine transport.

TAT projects an  attendance of around 300 quality international buyers from over 60 countries and 300 sellers. Preference will be given to buyers specialising in luxury, honeymoon, weddings and romantic holidays.

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