The Bangkok Eye

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So the Bangkok governor has announced plans to build the Bangkok Eye, to much scorn and criticism from social media and in internet forums like Thai Visa where I hover about occasionally posting under the alias of Quiksilva  (I’ll share the story behind that some other time).

They say the  THB 30 billion could be better spent on education, health etc, all of which is true, when we look at the bigger problem of Thailand’s various needs and requirements.

But lets leave that aside for the moment and look at this in isolation.  To me there are two questions.

1) At THB 30 billion could this make money, and

2) is it something which Bangkok needs?

Lets look at the last question first.

I am going to give the BMA the benefit of the doubt on the corruption (stop giggling!) and assume that 1) the cost is accurate and 2) that they must have thought about the bigger picture. Bangkok’s tourism sector after all  is still in real need of help after the recent troubles.

So what impact could it have on tourism? I think it could be significant.

Think about it, apart from seediness, shopping and culture (temples, Palaces etc) Bangkok does not really have much in the way of major tourist attractions. You could do Bangkok in 3-4 days no problem.

A project like this could feasibly add another day’s stopover in the capital to the tourist’s itinerary before they move on to the beach etc. It would be a must see, and would bring more revenue to the city and the hospitality industry in Bangkok.

So could it make money?

You betcha!

If the concept is the similar to projects I have worked on in the past, then the wheel itself would not be the sole revenue generator.

The new thinking in developing these Wheels is to add plenty of support retail components i.e F&B, souvenirs, and other surrounding tourist type attractions and various other family friendly amusements on the same site. So much more than what’s on offer in London.  In essence it would be a small theme park.

In projects that I have worked on in the past a 200m diameter wheel would have  a little over 100 gondolas.

Each of these could accommodate approximately 8-10 people (even in the London Eye you dont get to go up by yourself, rather you can hire a gondola for your own but at a higher rate!).

So let’s say 750 passengers per rotation which lasts about 30 minutes.

If operating hours are the same as London Eye say, 10.00am – 9.30pm non stop.

That will be 23 ‘flights’ per day.. you do the maths.

How much would you charge in Thailand?  For sake of argument, let us assume no dual pricing (YOU, stop laughing in the back!).

I asked my very junior staff, and she said she’d be happy to pay 300-500 Baht  so lets say we want it to be full and attract domestic tourism too, so let’s charge THB 300 for a 30 minute trip. (Sounds good to me)

That’s THB 5,175,000 per day, or break even in 15 years just from the wheel, bump the price to 500 and you are bringing in 3 billion per year, (a gross yield of 10%) without factoring in revenues from F&B, amusements etc.

I accept they are simplistic numbers and do not factor in seasonal adjustments or the reality that visitors may drop off after a while, but the numbers are already  pretty conservative.

Also once you factor in all other revenue streams and the benefits of a bigger tourism spend  in Bangkok, it starts to look pretty reasonable, and  even more reasonable if the construction costs are lower than being discussed (corruption aside politicians must inflate project budgets, if only so that they can deliver them under budget)

Personally I don’t care that its not original, or more creative, or even more cultural.  Its needed and it could pay for itself quite quickly (in comparison to say commercial office developments etc)

In summary I think it would be good for Bangkok, and its struggling tourism industry.

Bring on the Bangkok Eye!

(But can we call it something else please!)

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6 thoughts on “The Bangkok Eye

    tom said:
    October 15, 2010 at 03:50

    i can see the logic of it
    even the income can help
    it is just the appearance of idiocy that stands out

    andyd said:
    October 15, 2010 at 04:36

    What confuses is what do they expect people to look at when riding the ferris wheel? Lets be honest, Bangkok isn’t the most appealing city to the eyes. The suggested locations are also a worry.

    The Charoen Krung site is not near the BTS or MRT, so makes it more difficult for the average tourist get there. Also, it would be close to the Grand Palace! Talk about destroying the atmosphere in the old town area with a huge ferris wheel.

    If placed at the Queen Sirikit centre, it would be a bore. I would assume the ferris wheel would encroach on one of the few public parks in Bangkok (no way they’d put it over a carpark!), but also I can’t imagine people getting too interested about seeing the Channel 3 building or Klong Toey market from a ferris wheel.

    bangkokburt responded:
    October 15, 2010 at 05:46

    Location choice is difficult in Bangkok. Queen Sirikit complex is pretty big, it could offer nice views over Lumpini. I’d prefer it to be on the site the Tobacco Monopoly which has long been planned to be a new park, but you can not see any cultural land marks from there, but the park and views of the shiny skyscrapers could be nice.

    I’m not quite sure of which parcel they are considering for the riverfront site, on Charoenkrung but if it could offer views of say, Wat Arun, or even the Palace (although from a distance) then it could appeal. The downside is that most of the other buildings there are, as you say, not very visually appealing.

    bangkokburt responded:
    October 19, 2010 at 03:23

    Just noticed that one of the sites is opposite Wat Arun, which may be a little too close to the Palace, for comfort and security.

    It will be interesting to see how this proceeds.

    I also can’t help but think that Bangkok needs a new attraction so if not a wheel then what?

    There are blatantly other things that the country and this city needs more (education etc) however on a municipal level the BMA does not have much influence.

    Despite running a City bigger than New York, the Bangkok governor has very limited power (as was best seen in the recent riots where it was shown he has no influence over the police whatsoever), and whilst we all would like to see cleaner streets and power cables go underground nice looking streets will not add the sorely needed tourism revenue.

    andyd said:
    October 28, 2010 at 10:44

    I’m still more against the wheel than for it, but maybe that’s because I went to uni in Melbourne, where they built one that was a spectacular failure.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Southern_Star_(observation_wheel)

    If it was to go ahead, I think the area around Sapan Taksin would be the best, maybe on the Thonburi side of the river. You get river views at least, close to sky train and it’s not near the old town area of BKK. However, I guess that land is getting snapped up at a hefty price by condo developers or hotels.

    For your question – “if not a wheel then what?” In truth I’ve no idea. The city managed to win tourism awards for the best city in the world earlier this year, so tourists still like it. But I understand you have to keep progressing it to stay on top. Extending public transport networks would do wonders to opening up more attractions in the city, but lets not hold our breath on that.

    bangkokburt responded:
    October 28, 2010 at 15:32

    Wow, that Melbourne wheel sounds like a nightmare scenario.

    Yes, agreed Saphan taksin is where I’d put one too. In fact I very almost did a deal that would have seen that happen too a while ago, for all the reasons you stated. In the end there were too many players who couldnt align themselves in time. for it to come off.. oh well.

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