For 40 years the Kingdom of Thailand has attracted foreigners eagerly looking for investor opportunities in the property market. Prior to 1979, the opportunities for a foreigner to invest in Thailand were very limited due to the country’s strict rules on ownership of land and property.
The nations ruling administration realized that to modernize the country, to improve the economy and to raise living standards, they needed foreign investment. Three key areas were prominent in the planned restructuring of the country, business and commerce, industry and tourism.
The year 1979, and things were about to change. In 1979 many regulations that stifled foreign investment were either softened or removed altogether, in particular the Industrial Investment Promotion Law was allowed to evolve in such a way as to become more flexible in its approach to foreign companies. This allowed new treaties and agreements to be drawn up with major international brands aimed at bringing vast amounts of foreign capital into the country.
Medium and Heavy Industry Sector
Car manufacturer, Toyota, are a prime example. Pre 1979 Toyota’s operation in Thailand was very limited. Immediately after the relaxation of the regulations which had stifled them for so long, the company had new body press, and engine plants open. New assembly plants opened, 1 in Samrong, Samut Prakan and 2 in Chachoengsao. Since the regulatory changes of 1979, Thailand has become the biggest car manufacturer in Southeast Asia.
Of course, many other large manufacturing companies followed Toyota’s lead which has resulted in the country leading the region in the medium and heavy industry sector. Commerce and business followed the lead of industry, international banks from Europe, America and Japan transformed, their previously minor, operations into multi billion Baht financial institutions.
All of the expanding sectors had one thing in common, personnel; they all needed workers. From the four corners of rural Thailand indigenous workers migrated to the new industrial and commercial hubs of the country. They provided labor; they created the supporting infrastructure that these populated centers required to keep them functioning. Further expanding the required populous, foreign companies imported their own workers to bring in the necessary skills which would be vital to the success of their new operations in the kingdom.
For all the new growth sectors, having a new workforce being a common factor.This entirely new workforce also had one factor in common, accommodation. Almost within the blink of an eye, thousands of people needed to be housed. Once again, the regulatory changes of 1979 played their part. As part of the sweeping changes aimed at transforming the kingdom’s economy came the 1979 Condominium Act.
Foreign Ownership and Investors
The new law, for the first time, allowed foreigners to own outright, in their own name, condominiums in any location within the country. This one piece of legislation would go a long way to transforming the landscape of the major conurbations around the country. The first, and quite obvious, target for this morphing of a nation was the capital. From 1979 Bangkok was to change at a blistering pace.
Immediately following the new Condominium Act, building projects rose up from the ground, all of them vying for space to occupy in the capital’s expansive skyline. In these early days, sadly, many of these early projects were put together with very little thought to planning, design, functionality or aesthetics. Build quality was certainly suspect, certainly well below Western standards, and many would not stand the test of time. Bangkok is now seeing many of these early projects being gutted and renovated, or razed for redevelopment.
Chiang Mai and Pattaya soon started to go the same way as Bangkok, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. In fact, all the cities around the country started to feel the impact of new developments, comparable to their local demands. The nation was on a new road seeking modernity and prosperity, one of no return. Although mistakes have undoubtedly been made, today the country has reaped rewards from the forward, economic thinking of the 1970s
With an increase in national prosperityand the numbers of foreign workers, tourism became more of a focus. Resort areas pampered to the country’s new dwellers and the Tourist Association of Thailand took on a more aggressive approach to marketing the nation as a tourist attraction around the world.
The levels of tourism the country now enjoys were unimaginable prior to 1979. Forbes List has reported that, for the fourth year running, Bangkok is the most popular visitor city in the world. 2018 saw 22.6 million people visit the capital, up from 20.5 million in 2017, the projected figure for 2019 will show a further increase of 7.5%.
The Nation has a New Complexion
The radical legislative changes of 1979 rapidly changed the face of the Kingdom. But these were not simply cosmetic changes designed for the eyes of the world to look upon, ones that would simply fade after a few years. No, these were concrete foundations of industrial and economic change that would, in one leap, catapult Thailand from the third world into an industrial, commercial and business powerhouse within Southeast Asia.
Could this bubble burst. There was always going to be a danger of this happening due to the speed at which the country drove itself forward. There are signals that the boom has peaked in Bangkok and Pattaya. There are now many new condominiums sitting unsold and the resale market is virtually stagnant, particularly in Pattaya.
To maintain the momentum of growth, the government continues to identify the optimum direction in which to continue the country’s economic drive. They are able to do this because, from the outset in 1979, the government created a flexible framework in which to operate, thus allowing them to react to market forces and changing trends. It is through this flexible approach that they have been able to identify the need and desire of many people to look outside of the traditional metropolitan areas for their preferred location in which to reside.
Nation’s Southwestern Isthmus
Central government has participated in detailed consultations with many official and non-official bodies to create detailed plans for new, innovative, environmentally friendly and sustainable projects.Local administrations, specialist conservation groups, marine biologists and developers have all contributed to pinpointing the areas that would be most suitable for rejuvenation through quality, sympathetic developments.
The result of their detailed studies has identified one area of the nation’s Southwestern isthmus as the perfect stretch of coast to be the center of the nation’s new vision for the future. This vision has the objective of developing a global focus on an area of luxury and quality which will stand as an equal to anywhere in the world. This project will result in the new ‘Thai Riviera’ and will take in the coastal areas of 4 provinces, Phetchaburi, Prachuap Kiri Khan, Chumphon, and Ranong.
Geographically, running in a vertical line from Hua Hin to Cha Am and covering approximately 26 kilometers, the project has been devised to encompass and enhance some of Thailand’s most beautiful beaches, national parks and its natural beauty. The project is not an ill-thought out mish-mash of haphazard ideas cobbled together to be implemented on a wing and a prayer. The mistakes of the past have most certainly been learned from.
Thinking and Planning from the Roots Up
The planning for the new Thai Riviera looked in detail at the primary areas earmarked for the project as well as the areas on its immediate periphery. Essential services were all looked at in detail to ascertain their level of adequacy in being able to support the new developments, their infrastructure and the resulting population growth of the area, both permanent and transient.
From the early surveys, it was apparent that the existing supply of essential services would be unable to cope with an increased demand in volume and efficiency. As a result, further detailed surveys were conducted on the water and electricity supply networks, along with sewage and waste removal systems.
The Thai Riviera
Following the surveyance of the area, it was decided that a complete redevelopment for the provision of essential services was required. The redevelopment was not only an absolute must for the Thai Riviera, but also for the areas that would be coexisting with it, to ensure that their services would not be put under pressure due to the demands of the new developments taking place.
As a result, not only will the Riviera have modern essential services, but so will many people living and working in nearby areas.
An all new fresh water distribution network is being incorporated into the early ground work to ensure the whole area has adequate, uninterrupted supply. This is essential to the new higher standard of living which is envisioned for the Thai Riviera. The same applies to the electricity supply network. Installing new, and upgrading existing networks will facilitate an efficient integrated grid which will ensure a continuity of flow and a much-reduced risk of cuts in supply.
New and upgraded sewage systems are also being built in from the ground up, along with plans for the separation and removal of solid and liquid waste from residential and commercial sites. This is vital, not only for the quality of life for those people who will be lucky enough to reside or visit the area, but also for the preservation of the environment and the natural beauty of this unique are of the country.
Access to the New Thai Riviera
With much of the essential services going underground, the above ground services were also studied in detail, in particular the transport links to the area. The travel time to the 4 provinces from the Capital was in fact very good, a drive time of well under 3 hours to Hua Hin. Train frequency is good and Hua Hin has its own airport, previously only a domestic hub but more recently having become an international airport.
New roads are being laid to further reduce the travelling time from the capital and to carry the expected increase in traffic to the area. A modern, high-speed rail link is also planned specifically to service the whole of the Southwest coast which will create fast and efficient access to the Riviera from the South as well as from the North.
Ferries and Air Transport
The Airport at Hua Hin will also play a more and more significant role in the modernization of the transport system in the area. In addition to its domestic expansion, it has started its first international routes, Air Asia now have regular flights to Kuala Lumper and the airport authority are in further discussions with airlines with a view to adding more international routes to their schedule.
There is also the new ferry service from Pattaya to Hua Hin which is the first part of the governments East West Ferry Project. The old existing Khao Takiab pier at Hua Hin has been extensively redeveloped to take the new ferries, operated by the Royal Passenger Liner Company, which have a journey time of around 90 minutes, although this may vary during rougher weather. The ferries carry around 350 people and the crossing cost is currently under 1000 Baht. This East West connection is already extremely popular and is bringing great benefit to the Southwest coast.
Amidst the Great Plan, A Future for Pranburi
As all the plans unfold and become reality, the whole area will be vastly transformed. The center of this, the Thai Riviera, will be an international hotbed of quality living. Long term visitors and transients will enjoy the perfect meld of all that modernity can offer along side Thailand’s natural beauty, both on land and at sea.
Selected sites have been earmarked for the building of private marinas for all types and sizes of craft, all the way up to the super yachts normally only seen in the marinas of Pattaya and Phuket. Low-rise quality condominium developments will be the order of the day, there will be no sky scrapping concrete monoliths along the Riviera.An enormous amount of thought has been given over to the whole project being in tune with the natural surroundings, the regions mountainous skyline is not under ant threat.
On completion, the Riviera will be a lively, cosmopolitan center of activity. It is sure to be busy with plenty of foot traffic along its 26 kilometers and will be graced with brisk marine traffic, both domestic and international. Of course, being in the center of all the hustle and bustle is not to everyone’s liking, although being able to absorb it when the mood takes is desirable.
For this reason, it is becoming apparent that many potential investors are looking at opportunities that may exist on the immediate periphery of the Riviera project. Shrewd investors realize the benefits of being part of, and being able to enjoy the benefits of the Riviera project, without actually having to live and breathe it 24/7.
Pranburi in Prachuap Khiri Khan
Development companies also recognized the possibilities of being able to make the best of both worlds, and so, sought sites where exclusive new projects could be created which can offer luxury living in an unspoilt local. One location caught the imagination more than any other, Pranburi in Prachuap Khiri Khan. This is perhaps the most picturesque location along the Southwest coast, its natural beauty is abundant, and its geographical situation will mean it being able to enjoy all that the Riviera will have to offer.
Pranburi is blessed with beautifully secluded, natural beaches set against a backdrop of lush green forested mountains protected with National Park status. Within easy reach of its beach locations is the town of Pranburi itself, a charmingly traditional town which has embraced enough of modernity to make it a very comfortable place to live. Tesco and Macro stores are nearby, as are western restaurants and banks along with excellent hospital facilities, numerous clinics and dental practices.
Pranburi has certainly found itself under the spotlight, but due the area’s Tourist Development Plan and its strict controls on any new building projects, the area is not, and never will be, over developed. New projects are strictly limited, and those that are permitted are conducted under tight regulations, all of which are done to preserve the beauty of Pranburi.
Handsome Investor Returns
As the next few years unfold and the Thai Riviera takes its place a destination in which to be seen, the value of any investment made in Pranburi is likely to be embarrassingly lucrative. Any property bought as a buy to let investment is sure to reap handsome rental returns, and capital growth on the property value, well that is anyone’s guess. Sadly, opportunities are few, and those that do come about are snapped up with great haste.
There is one opportunity emerging on the market now which has potential investors buzzing. A small, exclusive project has started in Pranburi which will offer a unique style of living. Quality built, low-rise luxury condominiums facing the Gulf of Thailand across a sandy beach.
If that’s not enough, the project also has a private marina, and a canal which delivers it straight into the blue waters of the Gulf. The Grand Marina is set to be the jewel in the Pranburi crown. For as long as this investor opportunity is available, potential buyers can look forward to enjoying all that the Thai Riviera has to offer whenever they choose, whilst being a living as part of the luxurious, natural beauty of Pranburi.