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?
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!)