Pattaya looks to Iran for next tourist invasion
Pattaya resort, which kicked off its tourism career as a rest and recreation destination for American GIs in the Vietnam War, is looking for new warriors to storm its beaches, dpa reported.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Pattaya Office has decided to target Iran next year as a market for the resort after watching arrivals of Iranian tourists to the kingdom more than double last year, reaching close to 80,000.
"Firstly, they are rich," said TAT Pattaya director Niti Kongrut, explaining his Iranian offensive. "Secondly, they are sanctioned by Europe and the US because of their nuclear program, so we see this as a good chance to welcome them."
Marketing Pattaya isn't always easy.
The beach resort, situated about 100 kilometres south-east of Bangkok, got a dubious start as an R&R hang out specializing in sea, sand and sex for American GIs stationed at the nearby Uthapao Air Base, Sattahip, during the Vietnam War.
After the GIs left, European sex tourists followed and Pattaya's reputation as a sleazy destination was sealed. In the last decade, neo-capitalists from Russia have flocked to Pattaya, providing the resort's main market for several years now.
More recently, Indian tourists have wended their way to the seaside resort which, besides girlie bars and prostitution, also offers watersports, more than a dozen golf courses, hundreds of restaurants (Indian food is the latest rage) and more than 60,000 hotel and guest house rooms to choose from ranging from 10 dollars a night to 1,000.
Pattaya's popularity among new markets tends to wane as tourists discover that Thailand has many more destinations to offer.
"The first time tourists come to Thailand they come to Pattaya, because it's close to Bangkok," Niti said. "The second time, it's still okay, but the third time they want to try something new so they go to Phuket and discover Phuket is more beautiful than Pattaya."
Phuket Island, 600 kilometres south of Bangkok, has billed itself as an up-market resort, and authorities have limited the night entertainment scene to one beach, Patong.
Pattaya's plethora of bars and sex workers, many of whom are now openly plying their trade day and night on the beach boulevard, remains a marketing challenge for TAT.
"Pattaya was born as a prostitute 50 years ago," Niti said. "So it's not easy turning a prostitute into a nun."