Councilman suggests banning tour buses from Beach Road

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A Pattaya lawmaker has suggested banning buses and other large vehicles from Beach Road as tour operators continue to ignore complaints and traffic laws.

During a meeting called June 25 to address renewed complaints from Beach Road businesses, residents and beach vendors about traffic congestion and accidents caused by tour buses, City Councilman Sanit Boonmachai said the only option left to the city was simply to ban coaches and vehicles with more than six wheels from the waterfront promenade.

He noted that the city has had numerous meetings about the problems, laid down regulations, bus parking zones and stepped up enforcement, but tour companies simply ignore them, acting unafraid of the law and doing what they want with no regard for the public.

Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh said he sympathizes with people complaining, but said it’s not currently possible to ban buses from Beach Road.Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh said he sympathizes with people complaining, but said it’s not currently possible to ban buses from Beach Road.

The problem has gotten worse as Thailand’s and Pattaya’s tourist base has shifted markedly over the past year, with huge groups of Chinese and Indian visitors now arriving on package tours, replacing the independent western tourists that used to serve as the city’s base. Through May, Thailand has attracted 3.3 million Chinese tourists, making up about 20 percent of all arrivals.

Beach vendors complain that tour companies are stopping on Beach Road every morning, dropping up as many as 5,000 Chinese visitors headed to Koh Larn. An entire industry of new vendors hocking umbrellas, life jackets and souvenir photos has sprung up on the beachfront footpath, blocking the way for other pedestrians.

Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh sympathized with those complaining, but said it’s not currently possible to ban buses from Beach Road, although the city is working with police and the Marine Department to draft new laws and find alternate parking at Bali Hai Pier.

The ideal plan, he said, would be to have all tour buses park near the South Pattaya pier and dispatch off their passengers onto boats at the jetty.

Bali Hai, however, currently doesn’t have the capacity to handle that many buses or boats. Funds have been requested to add an additional four mooring buoys for speedboats.

A solution is planned, but the deputy mayor urged people to be patient until it can be carried out. In the interim, the city will work with police to be extra vigilant about Beach Road parking.

The meeting also heard a repeat of complaints from Thai tour guides about illegal foreign guides working in the city. Guide associations have been complaining regularly and repeatedly about their concerns that foreigners are stealing Thai jobs, but the meeting offered the groups no satisfaction.

Ronakit repeated what he told them earlier: That both Pattaya and Chonburi have stepped up inspection of tour companies and revoking licenses for anyone illegally employing foreign guides.

He said authorities were expanding their efforts to investigate sidewalk counters or other kiosks offering tour services to be sure they were operating legally.