Businesses in Cha-Am that are dependent on the patronage of foreigners tourists are struggling. The number of businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector, that are either closed, up for sale or just taking a ‘rain check’ are clearly visible on every Soi leading from the beachfront. A combination of the usual ‘low season blues’ and cancellations linked to political uncertainty have resulted in very quiet times in recent months. The bad news is the numerous reports have been received of cancellations for the coming high season. 2014 is unlikely to be a profitable year for many local business owners. However Cha-Am’s proximity to Bangkok and the continuing growing trend for Thai people to look for a weekend escape from the stresses of Bangkok means that weekends and holiday periods remain busy with many Thai visitors. The clear message is that foreign managed businesses ignore Thai customers at their own peril. A quick drive down Narathip Road after dark will reveal the strong patronage of Thai party-goers at bars and restaurants catering for Thai tastes, both figuratively and musically.
Long Term Smart money people say that now is the right time to invest in business premises around Cha-Am. They predict that after the current lull the previous tourism growth of Cha-Am will return. Property and business ownership prices are unlikely to remain at the current very affordable levels, probably the best value of any of Thailand’s tourism centres. After all business investment is not about today, but a longer term outlook. Cha-Am’s location advantages, accessible beachfront and natural attractions will always remain.
Add to that the nearby internationally recognised golf courses and the growing number of ‘disney-esque’ venues and the future looks bright. Perhaps the current business closures will serve to ‘weed-out’ those which were really not up to the mark, making way for more sustainable and innovative operations. Maybe the ‘Darwinian’ process of survival of the fittest offers a stronger future.
Marketing, Marketing, Marketing The reality is that many potential or current overseas travellers thinking about visiting Thailand have never heard of Cha-Am. The promotion of the usual tourist venues of Phuket, Kho Samui, Chiang Mai, Pattaya and to a lesser extent Hua Hin continues.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand is now increasing this promotion of these destinations to overcome recent visitor downturns. But what about Cha-Am? Any conversation with visitors will soon reveal that most discovered Cha-Am by accident. Maybe the lack of promotion of Cha-Am is deliberate, keeping it as a hidden gem. However for those wanting to put Cha-Am and their own business ‘on the map’ some serious marketing is really needed. Perhaps not the usual suspects, but countries that have their wintertime away from the high low season months could be a target.