Colors of the East goes on despite concerns of Pattaya business leaders

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Pattaya officials were promising stricter curbs on wayward street vendors at the Colors of the East festival underway on Beach Road after city business leaders voiced concerns over damage to the environment and the city’s image.

The Pattaya Business & Tourism Association said that while it supports beachfront festivals and street markets that benefit Pattaya’s tourism sector, it believes that too many events are poorly organized and badly patrolled, resulting in traffic chaos, obstruction to pedestrians, damage to the beach and tourists being annoyed by a swarm of unlicensed product hawkers.

Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh (back, center) urges organizers to keep control of vendors to ensure they sell items of value, don’t obstruct foot and vehicle traffic, and cooperate with police and military providing security.

The 9th annual festival, which is aimed at promoting eastern tourism, runs Feb. 25-28 with Beach Road closed to traffic from 4 p.m. throughout the evening each day, again plunging the city into traffic chaos.

PBTA President Sinchai Wattanasartsathorn earlier had pointed out that beachfront festivals had been banned by Chonburi Gov. Khomsan Ekachai last year after numerous complaints about vendors setting up on the Beach Road footpath, blocking pedestrian access, causing traffic snarls and not adding much to tourism.

The Colors of the East festival was allowed to proceed because it was aimed at boosting tourism in four eastern provinces and supported by 3 million baht from the Ministry of Tourism and Sports.

But the festival long has been considered a traffic blight, so much so that the entire event was moved to Jomtien Beach in 2013. But attendance plunged that year prompting local government officials to move it back to Pattaya Beach despite the disruption.

Sinchai was forced to walk back his earlier criticism, however, saying at a Feb. 19 city hall news conference that the PBTA was not opposing all beachfront events, only those that are not strictly regulated.

“We have never been against beach activities as many are useful. However, we want to emphasize that controlling and suppressing street vendors is important,” he said. “Troublemakers can cause damage to the scenery at the beach, which creates an unpleasant image for this tourist city.”

This year’s festival is smaller, with each province allocated 30 booths, instead of last year’s 50. Seafood, other meals and locally made products are on offer, as well as packages from travel agents selling accommodations and tour packages for Chonburi, Rayong, Chantaburi and Trat.

Sinchai said his organization will be monitoring the festival and if it sees a recurrence of previous problems, he will suggest that all beachfront events be reconsidered.

Pattaya officials reaffirmed that this year’s event organizer would ensure vendors sell items of value, don’t obstruct foot and vehicle traffic as before, and cooperate with police and military providing security to control freelancer street hawkers.