The bustling Walking Street in Pattaya draws tourists, yet concerns loom over the city’s reputation as a sex tourism hotspot, exacerbated by a report from a German media outlet. This portrayal could potentially tarnish the broader tourism industry. Deutsche Welle (DW) aired a documentary spotlighting Pattaya’s sex tourism on YouTube, but the video is inaccessible in Thailand. For readers not in Thailand, you can watch the video below.
Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, at the helm of the Thai Hotels Association (THA), recalls a comparable situation that unfolded in Germany about two decades ago, which significantly undermined tourist confidence and led to a noticeable decline in visitors from that market. She urges authorities to bolster law enforcement to address the persistent issue of illegal sex workers in Pattaya and other Thai destinations.
Despite Pattaya’s efforts to diversify its tourism offerings with family-friendly options and MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) events, changing the city’s longstanding association with sex tourism remains a daunting task. Marisa, who owns three hotels in the city, suggests that the local government and private sector should persistently promote alternative attractions and activities to gradually shift away from sex tourism.
“Pattaya is a diverse destination that attracts a wide range of tourists, not just for its nightlife,” Marisa explains. The city boasts vibrant local communities, such as the Takhian Tia tourism community, and excels as a MICE destination with its convention centers, airport, and proximity to the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) project.
Marisa concurs with local tourism operators that extending operating hours for entertainment venues until 4am across the entire province is ill-advised. The Pattaya Municipality should instead enforce specific entertainment zones to ensure that visitors, especially families with children, are not inconvenienced by excessive noise. “The city hosts a diverse group of visitors, not all of whom are there for the nightlife or sex tourism. A blanket extension of nightlife hours would adversely affect the majority,” she adds.
Marisa also emphasizes the importance of improving infrastructure quality. With the ability to collect taxes and allocate its budget, Pattaya should invest in enhancing public infrastructure, particularly environmental aspects like wastewater treatment systems.