With the ferry service between Pattaya and Hua Hin – the first on the Gulf of Thailand – scheduled for launch in February, tour operators see potential for it to do well for certain segments, but express reservations about its safety and mass appeal.
The Royal 1 catamaran ferry operated by Royal Passenger Liner will provide an alternative route between the two beach destinations, taking about two hours (covering 105km) compared with over four hours by road.
Besides being a “great shortcut”, Nikorn Yatinunt, director of Pegas Select (Thailand), said the service will also give Russian tourists more options in their itineraries.
Nikorn pointed out that Russian tourists, for whom Pattaya is a top choice for Thailand beach holidays, typically like visiting one or two additional destinations and stay an average of 14 days.
Surawat Akaraworamat, general manager of TT Goodluck Express, said that the service could help tour operators design fresh products and attract high-spending FITs from China.
However, both Nikorn and Surawat said they will assess the ferry's safety and readiness to handle groups before launching relevant tour programmes.
Meanwhile, Pornthip Hirunkate, managing director of Destination Asia Thailand, is unsure if the service would speak to current demand since Pattaya and Hua Hin appeal to different traveller types.
Hua Hin mainly targets families, couples and retirees, she opined, while Pattaya caters to travellers who love nightlife, entertainment and shopping.
The ferry will ply between Hua Hin and Chonburi in Pattaya, with fares starting from 1,250 baht (US$35.40) a trip per head.