Pattaya Rising Fast for Business
It may have been officially designated as a city way back in 1978, but arguably Pattaya has really only come to deserve such a status level over the last six to eight years or so. When it comes to business, and the increasing variety, numbers and quality of the businesses which are now either based in Pattaya or have established outlets here, it is quite clear the resort has come a long way from being just a laid-back, seaside destination filled with bars and not much else.
Pattaya remains largely a major tourist destination, as any amount of official figures still show. In 2013 an estimated nine million people visited Pattaya, and although the political crisis and military coup had an impact, around seven million-plus turned up during 2014.
Yet for some years now Pattaya has had a growing population of expatriates, many retired, but also large numbers who are either locally employed (and by locally that encompasses everywhere from Sri Racha to Rayong and in-between) or are engaged in working from home via the internet, often not directly engaged in any kind of on-the-ground business in Pattaya or Thailand. Depending on who you talk to, the numbers of expatriates varies enormously, but there’s no doubt the city has a strong core of foreign expats who keep the general economy humming year-round.
Thailand, in general, ranks at 26th place in the International Finance Corporation Doing Business in 2015 survey, sponsored by the World Bank. Not perfect, of course, but when you remember there are about 200 countries in the world, it’s not far off the pace (which, perhaps not surprisingly, is led by Singapore).
It has been especially obvious since about 2005 that Pattaya is being increasingly viewed as a long-term and stable place for major international companies to engage in the business field. Naturally, many of these companies are aiming at satisfying the tourist market: so, for example, Pattaya has borne witness to international-class five-star hotel chains such as the Hilton, Sheraton, and Holiday Inn all hanging out a shingle in the centre of the city.
In 2009 the CentralFestival Shopping Centre opened its seven floors of shops and restaurants and proclaimed itself the largest of its kind in Southeast Asia.
Bangkok-based companies like Villa Supermarket and Seara Sports have opened operations in Pattaya.
These companies generally engage in serious market research and only commit to moving into an area after being satisfied of its long-term potential. Clearly, Pattaya has fulfilled the requirements.
Since the Bangkok floods of 2011, Pattaya has become incredibly popular with Thais. Some 30 percent of visitors to the city each year are Thai nationals, and many have spent plenty of money purchasing second homes here.
The convention marketplace is also a growing niche in the Pattaya market. The Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall (PEACH), located within the grounds of the highly-regarded Royal Cliff Beach Resort and Hotel, and the Holiday Inn’s Executive Tower are both busy with hosting exhibitions and conventions throughout the year.
The Ocean Marina complex in Na-Jomtien is a world-class boating facility, the Silverlake Vineyard has expanded in size in recent years and the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club is now recognized as the largest multi-functional facility of its kind in Asia and Australasia, a milestone it reached in 2014, just nine years after first opening.
It’s the quality and diversity of the new attractions that make it clear Pattaya is becoming a more sophisticated city for business.
Yes, infrastructure is a problem. It has failed to keep pace with the changes, but then, in fairness to the city administration, no-one foresaw just how fast Pattaya would grow and how far that expansion would extend. The city administration has been playing ‘catch up’ for some years now, but their overall efforts have been positive, even if many locals and long-term expats are sometimes frustrated by how much more there is still to do.
With the nearby city and port of Laem Chabang continuing to expand, as well as the likes of industrial parks like Amata City and Panthong remaining busy, the overall outlook for Pattaya as both a tourist and business centre continues to be positive.