A novel attempt is being made to boost Pattaya’s revenue with a scheme to expand the local infrastructure of electronic payments. In a pioneer programme, Visa and City Hall have announced a business alliance to promote the Visa card acceptance network in smaller businesses which have hitherto been largely ignored. Pattaya is now officially designated as a “Visa Zone”, Thailand’s first in fact, which incorporates greater Visa-brand visibility whilst strengthening cardholder confidence at many more merchant locations.
Itthiphol Kunplume, Pattaya’s mayor, said, “The Pattaya and Visa partnership is a new era for business and customers, so we are delighted to be Thailand’s first city to launch the Thailand Pattaya Tourist Prepaid Card.” Visa is introducing a mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) device to accelerate the pace of electronic payment adoption by small merchants who have hitherto been excluded as their cash turnover was too small.
Thailand is the first country in Southeast Asia to launch Visa’s mPOS device, which is a small payment-card reader that can be plugged into a smartphone. Once configured, the smartphone with the mPOS attached allows businesses to accept Visa card payments via a swipe or by dipping the card. Vacationers who do not already hold a traditional Visa card can apply for a pre-paid one at Krungthai Bank, which remains valid and operational as long as there is credit in their account.
The campaign is accompanied by many special offers on goods and services and promotions throughout the year. Somboon Krobteeranon, Visa country manager, said, “Visa will utilize the latest payment innovations to provide small businesses and stallholders with a way to overcome traditional payment infrastructure constraints. Solutions such as mPOS give merchants in this segment an easy, cost-effective and portable way to accept Visa card payments from customers.”
Observers say that the decision to make Pattaya the first official Visa Zone in the country is significant as Pattaya continues to cement its position as a major regional tourist destination in view of the opening of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 which is expected to result in much more inter-state leisure travel by the 10 ASEAN partners. By 2015 Pattaya is expected to welcome 10 million visitors a year, compared with 8 million at present. The biggest single market is said to be China where huge numbers have expressed a wish to visit the city following an active marketing campaign by the Thai Tourist Authority. Well over two million annual Chinese visitors are expected by next year.
City Hall reported tourism revenue of 65 billion baht last year whilst investment in property and industrial projects was more than 100 billion baht. These figures are expected to double in the next two years. A spokesman for City Hall said that infrastructure improvement and green innovation were already priorities and various schemes to achieve them were already announced (beach reclamation) or at planning stage (rail and road transport solutions).