A renewed facelift attempt is being made to convert greater Pattaya into a more environmentally-friendly area with much less emphasis on nightlife. The Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (DASTA) is currently holding discussions with the city administration on new approaches to tourism which will increase visitor numbers by marketing the resort as attractive to nature lovers rather than to the late night revelers.
Among new projects at the planning stage are mangrove forests in Banglamung, the development of Huay Yai for its traditional culture and Chinese influence, specially constructed bicycle routes around Mabprachan reservoir and other locations, as well as upgrades to popular holiday attractions in the Pattaya area. DASTA is a semi-independent organization devoted to a greener Thailand, first established by former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra. The government of Yingluck Shinawatra, unseated by the military coup of May 22, 2014, had allocated 9.22 billion baht over an eight-year period. The figure to be agreed by the coup-installed administration has yet to be publicly announced.
DASTA believes that greater Pattaya should be divided into three distinct areas: the beach resorts (including Jomtien and Koh Larn), the residential and investment areas (Pattaya and Nongprue) and the green tourist destinations in the outer reaches. At the moment Pattaya attracts about nine million visitors a year, but this number is expected to double within 10 years. DASTA points out that the city has already made great strides forward in diversifying away from nightclubs and bars to a much more family-orientated resort. The fact that the area has good hospitals and schools has made it attractive to a growing number of working expats and retirees. Many Pattaya facilities such as five-star hotels, upmarket malls and top restaurants equal any to be found in Bangkok, or indeed other cities in Asia.
However, many commentators say a number of problems must be seriously addressed before a green Pattaya can come into being. DASTA sees adult entertainment in future restricted to the Walking Street area, but critics say this is most unlikely to happen any time soon. It would take a tremendous effort to close down other popular club areas such as Sexy Soi 6 or Boyztown. In any case, the legal status of the 100 buildings in Walking Street which extend into the bay itself has sometimes been questioned in the past. “It’s just pie in the sky to believe you can shovel all after-dark entertainment into one confined area like a protected bubble,” said one nightclub owner who has been based in South Pattaya for 20 years.
Another problem is that Pattaya has yet to tackle many of its pollution problems which are inconsistent with a green paradise. In spite of improvements such as the new highway to Suvarnabhumi airport and Bangkok and the widening of Beach Road, local traffic conditions are often chaotic with tour buses clogging arterial roads and long queues at many city intersections. The collection of garbage in Pattaya remains an unsolved and smelly problem in parts of the city, while sewage is only partly being treated by advanced technological means. Strict law enforcement of environmental issues is spasmodic. Another difficulty is that the greater Pattaya area covers several local authorities – outside the direct control of Pattaya city fathers.
Immigration police in the past have stated that Pattaya is home to too many criminal elements which need to be flushed out before a green and clean Pattaya can come into effect. As is well known, this is easier said than done. Recently, however, there have been some attempts to crackdown on long-term visa abuse such as foreigners claiming a one-year visa on the basis of a fake marriage or those trying to live permanently in Thailand on education visas even though they have no intention of learning the language.
Pattaya city authorities have predicted that Pattaya may become the Thai Riviera (equivalent to the Cote d’Azur in France) by the end of this decade or soon thereafter. For that to happen, a lot of effort will have to go into the solving of infrastructure problems. The authorities can’t just rely on sensational improvements several miles from the city center to achieve the desired result.