Pattaya, a successful reconversion:
Suladda Sarutilavan, Director Pattaya Office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand , explains what has changed in the famed resort city over the last five years…
Pattaya recently hosted the TTM+, Thailand Travel Mart, the Kingdom most important sho for professionals of the tourism industry. The hosting at Marina Yacht Club in Pattaya was also a way to show that the resort city- an hour and a half away from Bangkok- is turning the corner and is not only about entertainment activities anymore…
How easy it has been to reposition Pattaya image?
Suladda Sarutilavan- I must say that we have been half successful with our efforts to turn around the image of Pattaya. It is hard to change overnight the image of a destination which has been for decades associated with entertainment and of course sex tourism. On the domestic market, we definitely have won the image battle. If you talk to Thai travellers today, they associate Pattaya with family holiday. The fact that a highway as made Pattaya less than an hour and a half away from Bangkok turned the resort city into a week end destination. We estimate that 40% to 45% of Thai travellers are today having a family break-away.
How about international travellers?
S.S.- This is more difficult to convince international travellers, especially for westerners such as Europeans and Americans who still associate Pattaya with night entertainment. Despite the fact that many areas in Pattaya are today family-friendly clean areas like any other international beach resort town. Well, we then have to work further to change the perception of tourists. We want to associate more Pattaya with niche markets such as luxury, corporate meetings, incentive travel, female travellers or sports.
The largest number of tourists coming to Pattaya are currently Chinese, Korean and Russians but we continue to promote Pattaya as a resort city with a large choice of activities. For distinctive travellers, they are for example so many luxury and boutique resorts along our beaches while the infrastructure is being improved. The government is currently renovating beaches and extending the beach area to 35 meters with new sand. Landscapes will also form now a natural barrier between the beach and the road to protect more Pattaya seaside. All should be completed before the high season starts.
What can be expected over the years to come?
S.S.- Pattaya is turning into the central hub of the new Eastern Economic Corridor which will welcome new economic sectors such as an aviation logistic centre. The EEC is a priority for the government in terms of infrastructure development with new highway, a high speed train linking Chonburi Province to Bangkok and the three airports of U tapao-Pattaya:Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang. This will dramatically change Pattaya aspects. We already see the emergence of new shopping malls such as Terminal 21, transporation facilities such as a new airport in U Tapao and new cruise terminal. More will definitely come and definitely help eradicating the sometimes sleezy image of Pattaya!
Pattaya bad reputation comes also from scams against tourists. What did the government and TAT to protect holidaymakers from these scams?
S.S.- We all know that some unscrupulous businesses try to harm people. So we have worked with all concerned institutions such as the City council, the police and tourism associations. For example, regarding the rental of jet-skies, all operators of that business must now be insured against damage. If they do not have an official insurance, they cannot operate and tourists can ask to see the insurance licence. If anything happens, the tourist might have to pay a minimal fee as a reimbursement but nothing such as 10,000 Baht or more that he was probably forced to pay before.
What do you think is missing today for Pattaya?
S.S.- I believe that a reliable public transport system cheap and comfortable should be available for commuters and visitors alike. Even a high-speed boat would be great to link different points along the coast. The future train connection between Bangkok and Pattaya will already help to solve that transportation problem.
What would you like now to promote to foreign travellers?
S.S.- I think we can still surprise travellers with activities that they would not necessarily associate with Pattaya. Such as community tourism. We have along the sea the Takien-Tia and the Chak Nguen communities The first one is an old village and the second one a traditional Chinese community. People can then learn cooking or traditional activities. In Pattaya, you can learn also Thai boxing, cooking, go to a waterpark, visit traditional temples. And we also have music festivals. Lots of great activities to enjoy!