Bangkok’s Chinatown morphing from ethnic enclave to hip tourist hotspot

Yaowarat Road, also known as the main street of Bangkok's Chinatown

The rapid transformation of Bangkok’s Chinatown is turning it from “a centre of Chinese immigrants in Thailand” to “one of the hippest areas in Bangkok”, C9 Hotelworks’ managing director Bill Barnett notes in a blog post.

A sign of the pace of change, Barnett observed that a few years ago, millennials still viewed Chinatown as an “ancestor’s area where elders meet up and have their Asian breakfast”. While the traditional food scene still exists, the average age of visitors has dropped substantially and visitors now are becoming bar or café hoppers.

Yaowarat Road, also known as the main street of Bangkok’s Chinatown

It won’t be long before this transformation extends into tourism, with the boutique hotels, hostels, hip bars and cafes becoming increasingly prominent features of Chinatown.

Barnett wrote: “Based on our research and market interviews with hotels in the area, the number of tourists visiting Chinatown has sharply increased over the past few years. Thus, hoteliers in the area foresee that Chinatown will be reinvented over the next five years.”

The average daily rate (ADR) of boutique hotels in Chinatown ranges from 2,000 to 6,000 baht (US$62-187), with occupancy averaging over 75 per cent. But due to the constraints on development scale, hotel inventories for the existing hotels range from a handful up to 70 or 80 rooms.

There has not been an international hotel brand in Chinatown until recently, with a Holiday Inn Express expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, Thailand-based Burasari Group, which owns and manages Shanghai Mansion Bangkok, has signed an agreement to manage a new 128-key conversion property in Chinatown early this year, marking itself as a leading operator in the area.

While the hotel and lifestyle space shapes up, public transportation remains a “a key factor” weighing on tourism potential, according to Barnett. Scheduled to open to the public in mid-2019, Wat Mangkon MRT station is the nearest mass transit connection to Chinatown, sitting across from the upcoming Holiday Inn Express. Yet, “MRT does not carry the same clot as the BTS since many tourists are not familiar with the MRT”, Barnett pointed out.

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