Do Thai politics influence Pattaya’s development and tourism?

The following article covers the popular and controversial subject of Thai politics with the recent elections, it’s an opinion piece that reflects on how Pattaya maybe affected.

Pattaya is quite unique in many ways to many other places in Thailand. Yes, it is a resort city and life is far more western than in most other places in the country but it also enjoys special administrative status. This special status was granted way back in 1978 so certainly isn’t anything new and in practice, makes the city very separate from the rest of the country in that it is free to make many decisions without consultation with central government in Bangkok.

This status shouldn’t be overlooked when we think about the influence that Thai politics have on the city. Of course, it would be foolish to suggest that Pattaya is entirely separate from the rest of the country, but arguably, it does allow the city the freedom to develop and make independent decisions which are renowned for taking longer elsewhere. The freedom to set your own limited laws and set budget allows Pattaya to enjoy growth and develop as well as helping to make the city more attractive to tourists.

The recent elections saw that attempts were being made to return Thailand to a democracy again in terms of national elections being held for the first time since the coup of 2014. The long-term impact of this is obviously unknown at this stage with it being too early to see any clear trends. Elections naturally have a big impact on any country but as this was the first since Yingluck Shinawatra was forcibly, rightly or wrongly, deposed by General Prayut Cha-o-cha and it is foolhardy to suggest that there won’t or hasn’t been interest in Pattaya. However, as history has shown since 1978, that impact is likely to be felt less in Pattaya that other areas of the country.

Who is in power will certainly have an impact and everyone will be hoping that the country maintains its relatively stable political environment that it has enjoyed over the last 5 years. If that stability is lost, it will be inevitable that Pattaya and other tourist resorts will be adversely affected. A politically stable environment has certainly aided Pattaya’s development and will encourage tourists to come as they can be more confident of their safety.

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At same time, it should recognised that if the result of the election is viewed by business as being positive, it will have an overall positive effect on Pattaya as this would naturally influence the entire Thai economy. For Pattaya this would be a particular boost as the benefits would be felt throughout the Eastern Seaboard which, in turn, would be a boost for Pattaya. Of course, the reverse could also be the case if the result over the next few months is not viewed as being so favourable.

Pattaya’s infrastructure has had to be improved in recent years and Thai central government politics have helped with this along with the fast decision making and actioning of City Hall. Central government and TAT have worked hard to improve Pattaya’s image on the world stage and, indeed, throughout Thailand as a whole. This again has helped to drive tourism and as natural result, helped the city to develop. You can only say that in this case at least, Thai politics have played a positive role in promoting Pattaya.

Another of the main reasons why Pattaya is less affected by Thai politics is the simple fact that Pattaya has a large proportion of foreigners there. This is not just the obvious tourist but also expats living, working and retiring in the city. They, some but by no means all, pay little attention to Thai politics meaning that as individuals, they are less impacted by political factors. As a result, their day-to-day actions help to meaning that the city runs in a ‘normal’ manner with regards to everyday events. As a knock-on effect, businesses also carry on as normal and to many, this ‘ignorance is bliss’ attitude strangely helps Pattaya to grow. However, there are certainly those that do care deeply and arguably care more than many Thai nationals as they are the ones that are often adversely affected.

Of course, there are things that do adversely impact on the city in terms of tourism and potentially its future development. The city relies on keeping people happy and indeed many of the city’s bars and restaurants and probably even hotels feel the pinch on non-drinking days. We must be aware of the country’s culture and far be it from us to judge, so this is unlikely to change anytime soon. The fact that these rules are now more strongly enforced is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, rules should be enforced as this is how effective democracy works and avoids anarchy. However, on the other hand, it isn’t appreciating that Pattaya is a resort city catering primarily for tourists and it is these tourists that are affected the most.

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Pattaya’s development and tourism is in reality, affected by many other factors and politics only plays a small part in this. The city has so many things going for it that appeal to people from different countries, different age groups and different beliefs. This is arguably more important than what decisions are made in Bangkok that will probably only affect many people for 2 weeks of the year. Long-term, this should perhaps be the focus and Pattaya should make more of its semi-autonomous status to ensure that the city continues on an ongoing even-keel. The more stability that there is the better it is for everyone.

Pattaya has so much going for it and it is continuing to constantly evolve and develop. Tourism increases year-on-year and new things are forever coming to the city. The snowball effect that this has is good for everyone and is rightfully recognised. Much of this is private investment which creates jobs for the locals which benefits all meaning that Thai politics play little part in this. Of course, if these are international companies they may benefit for government incentives such as BOI but that is getting involved in an entirely different subject.

Thai politics do inevitably play a part in Pattaya’s development and the levels of tourists coming. In reality, most of these are positive things and drives to help growth and tourism. The negatives are there but as we have said, they are few and far between and Pattaya is almost a separate entity in many ways from the rest of Thailand.

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