When the first modern tourists started coming to Pattaya a few decades ago they could hardly have anticipated how much the city would change. A small fishing village with a few bars and a handful of hotels gave little indication that huge things could be in store and that Pattaya had a big future and would one day become one of the most popular destinations in Southeast Asia.
Of course, with this popularity investors start to take note and see the opportunities and potential openings that this would inevitably bring. The need for a huge increase in the number of hotel rooms as well as homes for this residents to live brings in the developers which in turn, brings in more investment. So, the wheel of change starts to turn and it quickly becomes apparent that the face of Pattaya is very much changing.
So, what changes have we seen in the last decade or so?
The change in the demographics of the type of people who are coming to Pattaya has led to a shift in the style of properties that are demanded. A decade or more ago, the city tended, with all due respect, to target single, western men who were coming in search of love for a few weeks or months a year. The demand was far more orientated around studios that were easily maintained by these types of visitors – very much a generalisation but fairly accurate nonetheless.
As businesses started to increase and the number of westerners living here with families started to grow there was the natural need for housing catering for families. This is when East Pattaya, a previously seemingly a distant relative of the downtown city, became attractive. Affordable housing and quality homes were available and subsequently, the area expanded to address this demand. Pattaya seemed to cater for singletons whilst East Pattaya was choice of families and so again we saw change.
The influx of Russian tourists, many with ‘new money’ resulted in another shift. These were families looking at beach holidays so demanded family sized accommodation in Pattaya itself – something that was lacking at the time. New condos were built that had more two and three bedroomed units than had previously been the case. The move was more towards short-term rentals to these groups which resulted in investors happily buying these units with potential to ‘make a fast buck’ and likewise, developers saw similar openings.
The demand for more family orientated activities was also apparent as was the need to clean up Pattaya’s image. The bars full of girls were less popular and there was demand for family eating venues and activities on the beach increased with the island of Koh Larn reaping the rewards. The larger waterparks such as Cartoon Network Amazone and Ramayana were the type of activity that was required to make Pattaya a truly family orientated destination.
Then came the rapid fall in the value of the Ruble. Almost overnight, what had previously been a cheap holiday destination had suddenly becoming unaffordable. The tourists didn’t come and those living in the city, left in their droves. Fire sales were aplenty and the previously attractive family sized condominiums no longer had the same appeal with many remaining empty. This was a dark time for the Pattaya property market and things were looking bleak.
However, changes were once again only just around the corner with Chinese tourist coming to the city en masse. The result was that the need to cater for this group and cater for them quickly. Unlike other nationalities, the Chinese were coming on organised package tours. They went, and still do, to venues together such as markets, restaurants and the stores selling locally produced items. The accommodation that was required was also different with the need for properties that could cater for large, frequently changing volumes of guests.
With this change in demand came new opportunities. The real estate industry had something that for the first time in years was attractive to investors. Investment properties that were part of 5-star hotels or purpose-built resorts such as all the New Nordic Properties that have turned areas of Pratamnak orange. These are investments promising guaranteed rental returns for long periods.
Naturally, those living in the location were somewhat perturbed by numerous coaches coming into the area at all times of day and night with residents looking to move to new, quieter locations. This has seen Pattaya once again start to spread but this time to the north and south rather than to the East as had previously been the case.
Areas such as Na Jomtien, Ban Amphur and Bang Saray, places that in the past seemed too far out of the city became increasingly appealing. Indeed, Bang Saray another former village has become a popular choice with many high-quality private homes, villages and condominiums being built. The largely unspoilt beaches are an attraction along with a small selection of restaurants and bars. This is a peaceful location and a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Of course, there needs to be better infrastructure to support this change and we are now seeing expansions of the highway network that will bypass large parts of Pattaya. This is again likely to see other locations further to the south of the city become more popular as they can easily be accessed. The availability of land will appeal to developers who have fond Pattaya to have a noticeable lack of prime real estate available.
The north of Pattaya has also spread out beyond Naklua although to a lesser degree to what we have witnessed to the south. Again, the availability of land has been a key driving force but also the desire to move away from the pollution and congestion that is becoming an increasing problem, especially in the mornings and evenings when the tourist coaches are on the move. Central Pattaya, although still holding its obvious appeal to certain groups is becoming less attractive.
As the residents and visitors move or spread, so the need for new amenities changes too. The construction on shopping malls in East Pattaya has previously be unthought of. High-speed rail links often talked about appear to be closer to becoming reality and the new Terminal 21 shopping centre due to open in October is bound to create some interest and pose a real threat to Central Festival and other centrally based shopping centres.
The talk of casinos, whether just rumour, wishful thinking or genuinely being considered is never far from many of the local news services’ minds. If and when this does happen it will again mark a large shift to the face of Pattaya. The type of visitor will once again alter with new opportunities occurring. With little room to build these venues in the city, the expectations are that they will move again to the north or south. A pipedream maybe but we will just have to wait and see.
Pattaya’s face is constantly changing and evolving and we can expect further changes in the upcoming years and decades. Land and prime real estate will be huge factors that will decide where the changes take place. Maybe a yet undiscovered location will be the next big draw and the new place to visit or live.
By John Wiki