I was with a businessman who operates around the Soi LK area of Pattaya the other day and he was moaning about the state of Pattaya. For him the town was all doom and gloom and any talk of a golden era emerging he would scoff at.
But I should not be surprised as his paradigm of interest in Pattaya is fixed firmly in this party area that caters for older Western men. And for sure this market has been hit over the last few years.
The polarisation of view could not have been any more different from when I met with other business people at the Argentinian polo cup at the Polo and Equestrian centre in East Pattaya over the weekend. Here I met many property developers, industrial to International school leaders and ambassadors; all of whom talked of a wonderful future ahead for Pattaya.
It’s obvious really whenever a region goes through such a rapid change like Pattaya that some will win and others will lose, it is inevitable.
We can point blame to factors like the strength of the Thai baht but there is a bigger piece at play here: Pattaya is changing.
Where upon Pattaya once relied on the revenues of the retiree expat market, now it has its eyes focussed on other emerging riches that will better guarrantee a brighter more prosperous future. Like it or not.
I can see both sides to the argument but have to side with the one that embraces the future – after all, what choice do you have but to adapt if you still want to get the most out of being in Pattaya? No where is fun if you don’t have much money.
Pattaya has not forgotten the Westerner by any means
It could appear that Pattaya has disregarded the Westerner to chase the easier short haul flight visitors from the masses of Indian and China, but this is not entirely correct.
The tourism authority of Thailand remain concerned by the fall in Western visitors and are now engaging with media, like Thaivisa.com, to try and address this. Unfavourable exchange rates don’t help but they don’t need to stifle completly either. The Russians are now back in full force even though their currency value versus the baht was cut in half three or so years ago.
The city looks destined for great things
The development along the Eastern Seaboard in effect opens up the region beyond the Pattaya traditional boundaries. The high speed train to the local U Tapao airport will transform Bang Saray and Sattahip for starters.
Confidence in this emerging coastline is sky high, case in point – Iconsiam shopping centre construction next to Pattayas Ocean Marina is just about to start. With the new main highway link coming in from Highway 7 bypassing central Pattaya straight in to this location is sure to attract thousands more of weekend Bangkokian visitors. The Glasshouse restaurant – already a firm Thai favourite – will no doubt be joined by many more eateries along this coastline.
Desirable to a wide spectrum of visitors
Pattaya is often tarnished as a more budget location but that’s insulting and not true. Yes it caters for the mass tourist market which is why you see so many coach loads of Chinese and Russians. But they are only part of the market.
Following on from my attendance at a polo tournament in East Pattaya – which was anything but cheap – I also then had a meeting with a couple of Bangkok business people on the Hilton rooftop to watch the sunset. Again, not something you would associate with budget travelers. For the golfers that come to play on the 30 plus golf courses within a 50km radius of Pattaya, again you would hardly associate them with tight budgets.
If you are in to your fitness then I have never seen so many new fitness centres opening and in Muscle Factory in Pratamanak we have an absolute world class gym, it is mind blowingly good! When you have finished your work out why not then go to one of the half dozen or so sauna and spas too? We are getting spoiled, but still some people moan.
For the naysayers on Pattaya they will find any narrative to knock Pattaya and so the yarn about it being budget is very convenient for them. But it’s not true anymore. Pattaya has a breadth that attracts tourists with a wide range of spending power.
There is too much happening for this town to fail
The new Terminal 21 shopping centre, a third world class water park planned in the Naklua area, vastly improved coastlines, new golf courses, thousands of restaurants, planned high speed train connection, a redeveloped international airport – I could go on, but the point is made. You see, the truth is Pattaya is being transformed and upgraded at a phenomenal rate. How can this not bode for anything less than a fantastic future for the region?