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Pattaya all but deserted due to virus, travel restrictions



PHOTO: A vendo stands on a deserted Pattaya beach - Jakarta Post

For years, Pattaya has struggled to shed its seedy image as a haven of sex tourism, which started in the 1970s when it became a rest and relaxation spot for US soldiers during the Vietnam War. It’s continued to develop into a much more diverse city with world standard attractions offsetting the seedier bars and walking streets.

Now it faces a much bigger threat.

Pattaya’s beaches are deserted, go-go bars sit empty and cabarets have shut their doors as business has ground to a standstill after worldwide travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

As one of the world’s most famous, perhaps infamous, tourist hotspots, the economic devastation is  almost total. Business owners say haven’t seen anything like it for four decades. One cabaret owner said…

“Our organisation has halted business 100%. Pattaya is a tourist city, we rely mostly on them. The whole city is affected by the virus.”

In normal times, his theatre, featuring high-kicking dancing girls with elaborate feather headdresses and sequined dresses, sees more than a thousand tourists daily. Now there are literaly none. While the cabaret isn’t planning on laying off its staff for now, the future seems grim. Thailand overall depends on tourism for around 12% of its GDP (some reports claim up to 17%), but in Pattaya, nearly the entire economy runs on visitors, either semi-permanent or on holiday.

Pattaya saw over 15 million visitors in 2018, according to a 2019 government report, already a 20% drop from the previous year.

“I would say that this is the worst that has ever hit Pattaya. And during the past two to three weeks, so  many businesses have already folded, have already gone bankrupt, closed down due to the coronavirus.”

SOURCE: Reuters


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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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