It is now seven years since Bangkok suffered arguably the worst flooding it had experienced for some decades, flooding which proved to be a boon for the attractiveness of Pattaya as a refuge destination as well as opening many eyes to its potential as a genuinely potentially profitable business environment.
At the time of the 2011 floods there was a great trek of middle-class Thais decamping to Pattaya and surrounds to escape the rising waters, and this, arguably, sparked a realisation that here was a city with all the services of Bangkok, located close to the international airport (not that this would have been a major factor in local Thai thinking) and drawing substantial sums of government money to the Eastern Seaboard, simply because of its propitious position when it comes to economic growth.
What has been extremely obvious for those long-term expat Pattaya residents over the past decade or so has been the arrival of all sorts of major players in both the hotel and hospitality industries, but also the rapid expansion of the city into the eastern side of Sukhumvit Road. Often referred to as ‘the dark side’, in fact the eastern flanks of Pattaya is now a vibrant and in many ways almost an autonomous unit in its own right.
There are international schools, braces of international-style restaurants (albeit not the same number and perhaps quality of those on the western side of the main highway), medical clinics, dentists, as well as mini-Tesco-Lotus and Big C stores and, of course, plenty of 7-11s. Particularly important, a couple of major supermarkets are now extant in this ever-growing area.
Indeed, the opening of the Eastiny Supermarket on Soi Siam Country Club and the opening of the Tops Supermarket on Soi Khao Noi, effectively means that many expats need not venture across Sukhumvit Highway any longer to fulfil their most basic shopping needs.
Pattaya has seen the opening of Central Festival Mall in the wide expanse between Beach Road and Second Road Soi 9, and it remains both a tourist attraction and a place for many expats to shop in a well-catered supermarket which stocks much of what the average foreigner may be missing from ‘home’.
Holiday Inn, one of the world’s premier hotel chains, has been around for some time now while the Amari expanded its already well-respected product, with business people taking up as much room ‘space’ as tourists.
While the upmarket property developments of the last decade are now a thing of the past due to what now appears to be an oversupply, it is nonetheless almost certain that a new cycle will start again at some point within the next few years.
Catering to the upmarket developments local Thai-run upmarket furniture showrooms such as Decco and Chic Republic opened on Sukhumvit Road in south Pattaya. Both were looking at what they thought was an increasingly sophisticated market, although it does seem at present that they may have overestimated the marketplace.
Medical tourism is another area not just confined to the better quality hospitals of Bangkok. Just down the road in Sri Racha, as well as in Pattaya, there is plenty of evidence of foreign visitors taking advantage of the high level of medical services available in the resort.
As travel gets easier between both Bangkok and Pattaya, there is a greater chance of some key businesses being prepared to relocate their main operations to Pattaya. The corridor between the two cities is already notable as a dormitory region, and the deepwater port at Laem Chabang also adds to the Pattaya attraction.
With the military-installed government continuing to press ahead with plans to expand and improve the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) and with the international airport at Utapao being geared more and more towards the tourist numbers looking to vacation in and around the Pattaya region, the long-term future of the city is almost assured.