While Pattaya tourist businesses are desperate for borders to reopen to foreign tourists, many local business owners oppose the rush to reopen Thailand. Boonanan Phattanasin, The president of the Pattaya Business and Tourism Association, which serves many businesses throughout Pattaya, points out that while international tourism benefits the local economy, domestic tourism is booming and businesses that cater to Thai tourists are doing well. They fear that open borders may bring new Covid-19 infections in, and scare away their domestic customers.
Seafood restaurants, Thai BBQ, Thai clubs and other places popular with locals much more than foreigners don’t feel the need to rush international customers in, while the coronavirus is still not fully contained. Koh Larn businesses are reporting busy weekends with Thai tourists enjoying a quick getaway, but they worry that locals will look for short holidays elsewhere if they know that Pattaya is a designated “sandbox” area that will be the first to let in foreign travellers. Even with vaccinations and testing, locals may not want to even risk Covid-19 infections and will simply travel somewhere else.
While these concerns are valid, pressure from the much larger international tourism market will likely trump the concerns of the domestic tourism businesses. The goal is to work towards a mutually beneficial solution and Boonanan proposes ensuring the majority of local residents should be vaccinated before opening to international tourists and keeping a watchful eye on sandbox trials in Phuket and Koh Samui first. Until then, Pattaya continues weekly events and promotions aimed at domestic tourists.
The sandbox plan would allow vaccinated tourists from come countries to visit Pattaya and other selected tourist locations without quarantine. Tourists would still be subject to mandatory tracking and allowed to visit limited places until secondary Covid-19 testing was done. The government plans to have Phuket as the first sandbox location with Koh Samui as a likely location for sandboxing early as well. With 10 million foreign tourists in 2019, Pattaya is likely to push forward with the sandbox reopening despite objections from domestic tourism businesses, as a much larger majority rely solely on foreign tourism and are desperate for quarantine and travel restrictions to end.
SOURCE: The Pattaya News
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