Thailand set to cruise into marine tourism boom with revived project

The graphic of a cruise terminal project for Koh Samui in Surat Thani which will be worth about 6.4 billion baht. Picture courtesy of the Marine Department.

Thailand’s Marine Department is set to revive the Cruise Terminal Development Project to cater for the growth in marine tourism.

In 2018, Thailand ranked third globally for most cruise ship stopovers, with 581 ships stopping per year and 14% growth year on year. Despite this growth, the country lacks a legitimate standard cruise terminal.

A department report showed that the ports in the Gulf of Thailand, mainly Bangkok and Laem Chabang, welcome 149 cruises each year, with passengers spending 7,000 baht per person daily. The report also revealed that passengers from 89 cruise ships stopping at Koh Samui Port in Surat Thani were spending 4,200 baht per day, while passengers on 219 cruises that stopped at Phuket Port were spending 6,400 baht daily.

Acting director Kritpetch Chaichuay stated that the department had been allocated 151.15 million baht between 2019 and 2023 for three cruise terminal developments, to boost tourism income. This increase is reflected in the Tourism Ministry’s 2018-2027 Cruising Tourism Promoting Strategy, 60% of which focuses on the cruise terminal project, Bangkok Post reported.

The terminals will cover shipping that passes through Thailand, with the majority originating in Singapore and ending in Hong Kong. Cruise ships will stop at Surat Thani’s Koh Samui and Leam Chabang Port in Chon Buri, added Kritpetch.

The department agreed to develop Bali Hai Pier in Chon Buri into a hybrid pier. Kritpetch said the port will be developed to serve as both a home port for cruises for 1,500 passengers and a port of call for ships with a capacity of 3,500 to 4,000 passengers. This project is currently in the research and development phase, with the study report, estimated price and design expected to be finalised this month.

Kritpetch added that an investment analysis and study into public-private partnership options are anticipated later in June, which the department will subsequently pass on to a new transport minister.

The development of the cruise terminal is expected to not only serve as a passage between two seas but also enhance Thailand’s competitiveness in cruise tourism. The port is projected to open in 2028.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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