Amari Pattaya’s David Barrett maps the future
by Barry Kenyon
Almost everyone in the know agrees that Pattaya in recent years has changed for the better. The high rise luxury condos, the five-star hotels, the upscale shopping malls, the many excellent restaurants and the diversification of leisure opportunities all signify that the popular Eastern Seaboard resort has moved a long way from its traditional dependence on night life to attract visitors.
Yet much work remains to be done. Pattaya is still stereotyped in many on-line media outlets and social networks as if it had not advanced at all from the night-owl specials and raucous entertainment of 20 years ago. Of course, exciting night life is still available in Pattaya – Walking Street in particular – although bars and clubs have not expanded in quantity even as the city as a whole has grown by leaps and bounds in sophistication. There is now a thriving expat community living or working here and enjoying the facilities provided by choice condos and villas, top class schools and international hospitals.
A campaign is now under way to make the whole world rethink Pattaya. David Barrett, Executive Director Events at Amari Pattaya and Amari Watergate Bangkok, is team-leading a remarkable venture which initially is concentrating on marketing one area of the resort. The North Pattaya – More Than You Think – campaign is welcoming partnerships amongst hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, attractions and quality tourism stakeholders operating in the North Pattaya neighbourhood.
The campaign aims to create a new identity for the area and to increase awareness of the superb infrastructure and first-class accommodation within North Pattaya. It is being driven by seven founding partners (all hotels) to provide an opportunity for local stakeholders to increase the volume of quality visitors. They are known as The North Pattaya Alliance (NPA) and include Amari Pattaya, Cape Dara, Centara Grand Mirage, Dusit Thani Pattaya, Holiday Inn, Pullman Pattaya and The Zign.
David Barrett said, “We face a tremendous international challenge in spreading the word that Pattaya is these days an excellent upmarket destination. The concentration for now is on North Pattaya because it is so different from the more commercialized central and south parts of the city, with its own pristine beaches, top class hotels, a greener environment and great infrastructure including easy road communications with Bangkok.” He added that North Pattaya in its own right has impressive leverage with a combined 3,000-plus guestrooms and numerous events spaces and local attractions.
The North Pattaya – More Than You Think destination branding is intended to encourage customers, both local and international, to think again about Pattaya and visit the neighbourhood, both personally and professionally. The active cooperation of The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), Pattaya City Hall and other agencies has already been secured to generate more MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) in the area. The commercial proposition, to be enhanced by a high-end brochure, website and social media, is to present North Pattaya as “More than a beach, more than a city, more than you think!”
David Barrett explains, “At the moment Pattaya MICE tends to be dominated by local companies organizing conferences or factory visits and special events. Pattaya is often considered as a cheaper option to Phuket and Hua Hin, but our aim is to increase dramatically more domestic and in particular international MICE and to position North Pattaya as an upscale destination to be the first choice for meeting planners and corporate business strategists. Our first mission is to sell the destination by changing traditional, negative perceptions and publicizing on a grand scale just what North Pattaya has to offer.”
Amari Pattaya in fact has made a sound start by beginning to exploit the lucrative Indian wedding market. The five star hotel located at the north end of the resort’s beach road has hosted six Indian weddings in the last five weeks with many more requests pending. There are around 300 Indian weddings a year in Thailand with each one averaging 300 guests. They are quite unlike other marriage ceremonies because of their large size and the greater attention which must be paid to the guests on a 24 hour basis.
David Barrett said, “Indian weddings at Amari Pattaya have really shown the success that can be achieved by a top hotel. You have to be flexible in the arrangements. For example, the hundreds of guests expect high quality Indian food both day and night, so we brought over 16 Indian chefs for a recent three day and two night ceremony. The philosophy of a great Indian wedding is masterfully to orchestrate the decor, the food, the service, the music and the dynamic environment so that the whole experience, not just the ceremony itself, will be embedded in the memories of the wedding couple and their families and friends for years.”
The campaign for North Pattaya – More Than You Think will be launched soon but at a time when it isn’t overshadowed by national political news. David Barrett concludes, “We want the campaign to be open to all, not just an exclusive club of seven founding hotels. Amari Pattaya is the campaign champion but our overall aim is to revolutionise world perspectives on our neighbourhood and expand MICE business and Indian weddings on a huge scale.”
Although the campaign is concentrating on North Pattaya, a discrete area in its own right, the potential benefits to the whole resort are obvious. Pattaya has indeed changed and is still evolving and expanding every year. A concept such as North Pattaya – More Than You Think to spread the good word is a timely and rewarding one. For too long now, Pattaya has been surrounded by a wall of erroneous preconceptions. That’s about to change.