DASTA solicits ideas from tourism-related businesses at latest hearing

Friday, 16 August 2013 From Issue Vol. XXI No. 33 By  Thanachot Anuwan

The Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration continued work on the proposed 15 billion baht sustainable-tourism “master plan” for Pattaya, quizzing tourist-related businesses at its latest public hearing about problems that could be solved with government help.

DASTA Deputy Director Dumrong Saengkaweelert and Thaweepong Wichaidit, manager for the Pattaya Special and Adjacent Areas Office led the Aug. 8 hearing at the Discovery Beach Hotel with about 50 tourism operators attending.

Dumrong said the project to develop cooperation with tourism operators was organized to help solve problems efficiently and overcome obstacles faced by the private sector. Participants were encouraged to brainstorm ideas to build a strategy for tourism development over the next five years.

DASTA Deputy Director Dumrong Saengkaweelert and Thaweepong Wichaidit, manager for the Pattaya Special and Adjacent Areas Office, held another public hearing with tourism officials about problems that could be solved with government funds.DASTA Deputy Director Dumrong Saengkaweelert and Thaweepong Wichaidit, manager for the Pattaya Special and Adjacent Areas Office, held another public hearing with tourism officials about problems that could be solved with government funds.

One initiative announced was a DASTA partnership with Siam Commercial Bank to provide low-interests loans of up to 5 million baht to tourism-related businesses.

The hearing was the sixth held by DASTA on the master plan approved in August 2011. It called for 15 billion baht in funding over 10 years for 132 projects in Pattaya and nine surrounding districts.

Very little of the plan has been implemented, as national politicians have shown little enthusiasm to fund the long list of pork-barrel projects largely suggested by Pattaya Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome. Last year, the Cabinet axed 56 projects and cut the total package by 38.5 percent to 9.2 billion baht over eight years.

In 2012, the government gave Pattaya only 135 million baht of the 15 billion baht plan - about 1 percent. For 2013, the government allocated only 299 million baht of the reduced package, or about 3 percent of funds requested.

Set up by a 2003 royal decree, DASTA was given a mission to integrate and oversee tourism development in areas designated to have superb natural environments, cultural and traditional importance and have been developed for tourism purposes.

With its sprawling nighttime industry and many environmental problems, Pattaya’s bids for DASTA status - and the millions in baht that come with it for projects - were repeatedly turned away. But in July 2008 Bangkok officials conceded, admitting Pattaya formed a “distinctive” area for international tourism and could retain its status as a draw for foreign currency if developed properly.

Thus began more than three years of discussions and proposals that culminated in 29 public hearings and private meetings and the March 2009 designation of a 928 sq. km zone that comprises Pattaya and the eight districts.

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