If Pattaya learned anything from the coronavirus pandemic, it’s that it’s too dependent on foreign tourism, Mayor Sonthaya Kunplome said.
The future, he believes, is to make Pattaya more like Singapore, Dubai or Miami, where other industries contribute to the local economy.
Sonthaya’s comments came Feb. 9 as he announced that the government’s Eastern Economic Corridor board had accepted, in concept, the mayor’s “Neo Pattaya” master plan, which focuses on developing infrastructure and attractions popular with Thais more than foreigners.
He said the city needs to become a much-larger draw for domestic tourists and add office buildings and white-collar jobs to make the city’s economy more sustainable, as he believes Singapore, Dubai and Miami have done.
The mayor perhaps needs to look closer at those cities’ economies.
More than 12 percent of Dubai’s economy comes from foreign tourism, and tourism is Singapore’s fastest-growing industry. Miami, meanwhile, welcomed 25 million tourists in 2019, half of them from overseas.
In fact, NEO Pattaya focuses almost entirely on tourism, with only lip service paid to commercial or other ventures.
Spending plans call for new piers on Koh Larn and investments in an incinerator, waste-processing plant and tap-water system to bring even more visitors to an island that was already bursting at the seams from over-tourism.
The same is true in Naklua, where development targets expansion of the Lan Po Market, a major draw for Thai tourists, and prettying up the older section of town to make it a quaint fishing village again, suitable for all those Instagram selfies.
Other projects Sonthaya wants government money for include a marina near Bali Hai Pier, parks on Thappraya Hill and expansion of Jomtien Beach.
All are suggested with an eye toward making Pattaya more palatable to Thai families. Indeed, Sonthaya said his goal is to attract more “quality Thais”, code for wealthy Bangkokians.
Oh, and more office buildings would be nice, too, Sonthaya said.