Let us play a small game. When I say ‘Bungee Jump, Skydive, Scuba Diving, Flying fox, Beaches, Wind Surfing, Water skiing, Snorkel, Parasailing, Go-karting, Golf and Long Boat Racing’, which city comes to your mind? Let me add few more cues, ‘Coral Island, Elephant Village and Underwater Walk’. And the confusion would be resolved if I shared the last cue: ‘Happy Ending massage and The Famed Walking Street’. The city that immediately shouts for attention is Pattaya, the popular nightlife-based beach resort town in the Gulf of Thailand, just 150 km from Bangkok. Also branded ‘Sin City’. The most misunderstood and unarguably overexploited city.
Pattaya is one of the favourite first-time destinations for Indian male tourist. This is the place that introduces him to the things he never thought possible. Indeed a beautiful beach city with good-natured citizens and possibly a great family destination remains associated with walking street and trick shows.
Every tourist destination has a war cry promoting the experience. It is associated with images, activities by which the destination gets branded. A
tourist destination is nothing but the memories and experience visitors have or are sold. Pattaya, the sleepy fishing village, is a case in point. It was an R&R (Rest and Recreation) centre for American soldiers. Much before the digital age, in a hurry to transform into a decent-sized town, Pattaya took-on more sins and pleasure points than it could wash or enjoy later. Now, the web is full of references to Pattaya with massage and walking street.
Thailand tourist department and the local Pattaya administration have been investing in reinventing and rebranding Pattaya as a family tourist destination. They have obviously not been successful and have nothing much to show. Frankly, it is a huge task and may not be possible. It is unlike that like some of the European cities, Pattaya can easily weed out city employment and workforce focused around massage and nightlife. It is a tough to act against an illegal sex trade that is so openly operates.
While Thailand moves from ‘Amazing Thailand’ and serves the 2015 theme ’Discover Thainess’, tourist memories and expectations remain
unchanged. ‘Thainess’ sounds even raunchier to an Indian tourist.
In the digital world, wiping out image impressions is a daunting task. More so to attempt rebrand a heavily visited, listed and reviewed place. An attempt to clean it and rewrite is a waste of time. But, attempt to amplify currently undiscovered parts; events, and opportunities available in Pattaya in social media could be a good start. Make people feel those vibrations. Make the goodness appear higher in searches and the old dirt grime pushed deeper in the search pages.
Beware of the perils of default branding in the digital age. ‘You brand yourself or the competition would’ was the old saying. ‘Proactively brand yourself or the consumer will’ is the new one. Once you allow it to happen, it becomes increasingly difficult, to be what you want to be.
To the advertising and marketing community making their way to the Pattaya Adfest, I have few requests to make in this direction. Do attend the fest that’s what I presume that you are going for. Go out and try Thailand’s fresh seafood being served across wide selection of restaurants. Explore and enjoy authentic French, Italian, German, Hungarian, Arabic and Japanese cuisine. Make a most of it. Try out a trip to ‘Sanctuary of truth’, ‘Sukawadee house’ and ‘Mini Siam’ – names you may be hearing for the first time. Try some of the great adventure and tourist offering like Para Jump or Bungee Jump. In case you need any directions do connect with me. I am most likely to go for Scuba. And most of all keep social media feed oriented toward the nicer part of Pattaya and Pattaya Adfest.
The article first appeared in mxmindia.com on 5th March 2015. Read other Published articles here.