I've seen the comments in your column about Pattaya and whether it was busy or not. I have been visiting Pattaya 2 or 3 times a year for a long time, and just came back from a 3-week holiday. Maybe I understand why there were mixed reviews. There
are plenty of Indians and especially Russians in Pattaya, so certain areas look very busy. At the beach for example it was busier than ever before, mainly because of the Russians. Walking Street is very busy too, because that's where all
the Russians and Indians go to "have a look". If you visit the bars however it's not that busy yet, especially further away from Walking Street, but that might just as well be a sign of the times and not a temporary thing.
Pattaya has, in my opinion, really changed over the last 10 years or so. I think the promotional campaigns to promote Pattaya as a tourist destination for everyone (and not just sex tourists) are kicking in. They tried to do this before, and I've seen the Russians before, but due to economical problems in Farangland and political problems in Thailand the effect of the campaigns was reduced to zero for the last 2 years. Now that economies are recovering and the political situation in Thailand seems quiet (at least for the time being) the process that started years ago goes on.
If you look at all the new hotels like the Holiday Inn, the Hilton, the Amari Orchid and the IBIS, then you see hotels that cater for the average tourist in big numbers. They offer all sorts of facilities on the premises, where the usual sex tourist hangouts like the AA Hotel and the many guesthouses are far more basic because their guests come there for different reasons.
The "new" visitors (don't forget the Chinese too) are not the people that you'll see in the typical Pattaya bars, and many of the old visitors are just not there anymore due to several reasons. The young British punters that you saw plenty of a few years ago are hardly there anymore, due to economical / financial troubles and also the competition of other destinations where cheap sex and booze is available like some Eastern European cities. We've noticed that also in my hometown Amsterdam, especially in the red light district area where there have been far less British tourists around for the last 2 years.
The current exchange rate of the baht is also a reason why many people stay away. Let's be honest, a big part of the old style sex tourists were not the real big earners in Farangland. They've been seriously hurt by the current exchange rates, and quite a few of them have been facing uncertainties about their jobs in Farangland too.
So if you ask me then I'd say that we will never really see the old Pattaya back again. We will see more fancy hotels and condominiums, more shopping malls and more and different restaurants than ever before, but less old style bars for the years to come. The sex tourists will always be there, but it will never be like it was before. Names like Sin City and Sleaze by the Beach will be used less and less in the coming decades, although the sex industry will never completely die out in Pattaya.
And the girls? There will be less and less of them available for the sex industry due to the economic development in Thailand, although I don't think that Thailand will ever be a leading nation in South East Asia due to corruption, an insufficient education system, Thai politics and the whole Thai society system.
Does Thailand/Pattaya really care? No, as long as there are tourists coming in big numbers it's fine with the Thais. They even prefer the new tourists because it's better for their image. And the new tourists? They will find a tourist destination with relatively cheap and good hotels, nice weather, a beach, other tourist attractions, nice restaurants and nightlife and plenty of fancy shops. A win/win situation, isn't it?
Yes, I know, bar owners are complaining that the newbies are no big spenders in their bars. I know quite a few restaurant owners too that are complaining about how the Russians take their own Sangsom and Hong Thong whisky (purchased in the 7 Eleven next door) to their restaurants and just order food, no drinks (indeed a rather strange habit of the Ruskies). And I've seen Russians too that, after being informed that they had to pay 30 baht for their deck chair at the beach, left the chair like it was on fire and sat in the sand next to it…. And the Indians are even worse!
But in the end all these tourists have to sleep somewhere and have to eat somewhere, and will visit some shops and tourist attractions somewhere, so as long as they're coming in reasonable numbers Pattaya will be fine and the Thais will be happy. Be warned, Pattaya is changing and changing….
I agree with almost everything you say. The only thing I would say about these new tourists is that they are often a little more difficult to service, because of the language issues and the Thais still have not completely worked them out i.e. figuring out what they want. Sex tourists are easy – they want drink, Western food and bars with girls. These new tourists are happy to see that but they might also want something a little different.
Pattaya is changing and I agree, the flavour of it being primarily a sex tourist destination is disappearing before our eyes.