Pattaya needs a remake

June 23, 2016 by  
Filed under David Holden, Travel Logs

PATTAYA, 23 June 2016: I thought I would try to identify Pattaya-bound travellers while queuing at Suvarnabhumi airport’s Immigration counter. Not a difficult challenge if like me you have spent considerable time in Thailand’s eastern seaboard tourist trap.

I am tempted to say that most Pattaya travellers would fall short of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports’ Quality Tourism tag, but that would be unfair. They could be billionaires dressing down to a T-shirt and shorts, travelling incognito.

Pattaya is convinced that it has “reinvented” itself over the last decade and a testament to that sentiment is the increase in international hotel chains prepared to put their brand names to an assortment of new generation hotels.

inside no 5Still to a large extent, the image restoration appears to be uncoordinated, probably because despite the best intentions there will always be an endless supply of “Beer Bar” tourists to fill the cheap hotels and rooms.

Add to the cheap hotels, condominiums that are slowly and relentlessly choking the life out of Pattaya and Jomtien’s beach landscape and through online booking services tapping a market that once was the exclusive territory of registered hotels.

Pattaya, sadly has evolved into a “Budget Price” resort. If you can’t afford Phuket or Koh Samui, try Pattaya.

In the past, Phuket and Pattaya ran neck-and-neck vying for second and third places in tourist arrival numbers. Bangkok always dominated but it was Phuket that relentlessly widened the gap with Pattaya to become the tourism “Shangri La” of beach resorts. Pattaya, in spite of significant improvements in the infrastructure and law enforcement over the last decade, never quite made the cut.

Why is such a vital tourism resource allowed to fall far short of its early promise when it was seen as a rising star of resorts in the region?

inside no 5.1Can the decline be blamed on unruly baht bus drivers and tourist scams? Or perhaps it is the lack of a proper meter taxis, or the presence of jet skis and the risk of being cheated by their owners. Then there is the grid locked weekend traffic, the clutter of the red-light district and the failure to zone beer bar real estate.

What served Pattaya in the 60s and 70s is now a liability. Pattaya needs to make a significant Statement of Intent.

Markets, traveller profiles and the expectations of international tourists and conference delegates have changed and matured.

Despite the negatives, the resort still has vast untapped potential and if it embarked on a campaign to reinvent itself it could be a goldmine of tourism-related revenue.

One of the most obvious ways forward for Pattaya is to develop itself as Thailand’s MICE “ACE” – the lucrative MICE “Capital” of Asia. If properly managed, Pattaya could once again be a top resort in Southeast Asia.   Its assets are formidable. They include a mature tourism infrastructure and resident international hotel chains, located less than two hours drive from Thailand’s international gateway airport. There is no significantly debilitating “rainy season” and with no inconvenient domestic flight to catch after a long-haul flight to Thailand. It could be the top billed destination for Thailand’s MICE business.

Core to unlocking that potential would be the development of a Skytrain system that would run from the bus station in North Pattaya all the way to South Pattaya and even on over the hill to Jomtien Beach.

Apart from helping to relieve Pattaya’s at times chronic traffic congestion, the Skytrain system would have stations near major hotels and shopping malls in Pattaya North, Central and South and at its centre would be a government owned and privately managed convention centre – the Pattaya International Convention Centre.

The aim should be for the Pattaya International Convention Centre to be one of the top Convention Centres in Asia, allowing Pattaya to compete for truly international grade, top-of-the- line conferences and events along with other “world class” convention centres.

Linked to most of Pattaya’s major hotels, with easy access to shopping malls and with a high-speed rail link from Suvarnabhumi airport, the Pattaya International Convention Centre would place the resort amongst the top MICE destinations in Asia, with all the incremental benefits for Thailand and Pattaya; more jobs, more tourism revenue, more tax revenue.

And we should not forget the positive spin-off benefits from developing U Tapao Airport as Pattaya International Airport. This should be an essential part of Thailand’s tourism development plan.

With Thailand currently dangerously dependent on Bangkok’s gateway airports of Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueng, the development of a credible national network of airports with significant international capacity will spread the benefits of tourism around the country.

Another point for further discussion is the development and promotion of Jomtien as a separate, stand alone Tourism destination. Pattaya as the MICE Ace, Jomtien as the TOURISM Ace.

Is Pattaya prepared to take up the challenge?

David Holden is a career tourism and hospitality veteran, having spent 28 years with Thomas Cook – including seven years running the world’s largest Thomas Cook Branch Office located in Mayfair, London and 13 years as director of marketing and sales at the Royal Cliff Beach Resort in Pattaya, which included launching the sales and marketing strategy for the newly opened Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall and winning significant events for the facility including the first ever TTM and IT&CMA.


One Response to “Pattaya needs a remake”
  1. I’d rather suggest everyone in Pattaya City admin. and tourism bodies concerned solve all the negative problems in Pattaya first to lift up the image of Pattaya and then move on to new idea such as positioning and brand image rebuilding. It’s quite difficult because the problems have deep root and there are many ghosts lingering.