Pattaya's tourism operators are against the proposal to extend the opening time of entertainment venues until 4am to include establishments located on the beachfront road as it would cause more trouble with residents in the neighbourhood and potentially further deteriorate the area's reputation in relation to the sex industry.
From Dec 15, the government will allow entertainment venues to open until 4am, starting with four tourism destinations -- Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya and Chiang Mai.
The permitted zone in Pattaya should be restricted only to Walking Street as this area has typically been the area that attract visitors looking to enjoy the nightlife scene in Pattaya, said Thanet Supornsahasrungsi, the newly-elected president of the Association of Chonburi Tourism Federation (ACTF).
He said that if the late opening hours were applied to operators on the Pattaya's Beach Road, it would definitely affect tourists and residents from hotels and condos located nearby.
Those venues might violate the rules and end up opening until early morning, as some of them usually open beyond permitted hours at the moment.
Mr Thanet said not every tourist wanted to visit Pattaya for nightlife entertainment or visit the red-light district, and Pattaya has not been attracting many partygoers as in the past when this segment accounted for almost 80%.
He said many beer bars located in central Pattaya closed during the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of active operators in this kind of business were fewer now as new segments, such as families, continue to grow.
Mr Thanet said tour operators from Russia had raised concerns about the reputation of the sex industry in Pattaya, as their clients were mostly in the family segment and were seeking other forms of leisure activities that were not linked with nightlife.
Similar feedback had been received from the Taiwanese market, which has been granted a visa exemption, as they feel more comfortable visiting other destinations rather than Pattaya.
"Tourism operators should be prepared for changes. Of course, there are still those who seek nightlife entertainment when choosing Pattaya as their destination, but this group is much smaller and would gradually become even smaller," said Mr Thanet.
He said ACTF would organise a tourism workshop to set the direction of Pattaya tourism with the goal of pivoting from the city's negative image linked to the sex industry to segments offering great potential, such as health and wellness.
"Such an image has hampered opportunities to attract investors from high-quality segments. Wellness hotels and resorts or health institutions tend to prioritise Phuket if they want to expand their businesses," said Mr Thanet.
He added that tourism operators in central Pattaya are also losing out to those based in Na Jomtien in terms of attracting high-spending travellers.
Geographically, hotels along Jomtien beach already have advantages as they are located on the beach, unlike central Pattaya which has the beachfront road area.
The rise of branded five-star properties in Na Jomtien subdistrict, many of which can sell rooms at the same or even higher rates than luxury hotels in Phuket, illustrates how the tourism market in Chon Buri has transformed over the past few years.
Mr Thanet said tourism operators should adapt to the new trend, which could help them maximise revenue per head instead of relying on numbers, particularly when U-tapao International Airport is unable to attract as many direct flights as it should do.
He said many airlines said fuel prices at this airport are more expensive than other airports in Thailand, prompting them to choose Bangkok or Phuket over Pattaya when planning flights.
Moreover, he said local low-cost airlines which still have limited fleets since the pandemic should consider other routes which have more opportunities, as tourists who choose Pattaya would normally combine their trips with Bangkok or other provinces and prefer to use airports in Bangkok.