Bangkok bets on future as a world-class megacity

Numerous luxury developments set to rise on Chao Phraya riverfront

With the rapid expansion of metro lines, mega projects breaking ground and a slew of high-profile hotels in the development pipeline for Bangkok, expectations are high among industry watchers that the Thai capital is at the cusp of becoming a world-class megacity, opening up vast opportunities for the travel and tourism sector.

“The great promise of the East has now become the new West,” said Bill Barnett, managing director of C9 Hotelworks, at the recent Thailand Tourism Forum (TTF) 2018. “Move over New York, move over London. Bangkok will soon join Shanghai and Beijing as a megacity.”

Several massive infrastructure projects like the East Economic Corridor, expansion of the Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang International Airports, and high-speed trains linking the capital to Rayong, among others, are expected to change the face of Bangkok’s development.

Numerous luxury developments set to rise on Chao Phraya riverfront

For Bangkok, which already accounts for half of the tourism receipts into Thailand, “infrastructure is a first and foremost step to success,” stated Nikhom Jensiriratanakorn, director, Horwath HTL, pointing to developed metropolises like Singapore, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Bangkok’s potential as an up-and-coming megacity is not lost on Apichart Chutrakul, CEO of Sansiri, who unveiled at the forum plans to venture outside of the property development sector by bringing The Standard Hotels into Thailand.

This diversification gameplan is also part of the company’s efforts to bring Bangkok “up to standard” with other global urban conglomerations, the real estate mogul declared.

Such sanguine projections are further backed by the city’s surging inbound visitor numbers as well as robust hotel performance in recent years.

In particular, Bangkok’s hotels saw a “really good year” in 2017, achieving an ADR of 3,400 baht (US$108), occupancy levels of 79 per cent and RevPar growth of 4.6 per cent, with records broken for 10 out of 12 months last year, shared Jesper Palmqvist, STR Global’s area director Asia-Pacific at TTF.

“If the stability of the city in the last two, three years – which is already unusual – can be sustained, this will supercharge Bangkok,” he commented.

Furthermore, major luxury hospitality brands like Four Seasons and Capella have already announced hotel projects along Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River, which together with upcoming mega projects like 50 billion baht Icon Siam by local retail developer Siam Piwat, is expected to drive the riverfront as a major growth area in the coming years.

However, industry watchers are keenly aware that it could be too early to pop the champagne, as a number of factors, whether it’s the overstrained airports or Thailand’s looming elections in late 2018, could put a spanner in the works of Bangkok’s ambitions.

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