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Pattaya businesses say they desperately need foreign tourists to stay open

Caitlin Ashworth



PHOTO: Asia Hotels

“If borders stay closed to international tourists for another 6 months, nearly the entire tourism industry in Pattaya could collapse.”

Pattaya needs tourists. The city’s famous Walking Street could go under if international tourists aren’t let back in the country, according to the resident business owners. Many shops have already closed, after re-opening in June when the restrictions were lifted, while others have even changed their business tactics to market to domestic tourists.

The same desperate situation exists in Phuket and Koh Samui where there is a high reliance on foreign tourists and the business models focus on the foreign travellers.

Without international tourists, the city’s once bustling nightlife district is quiet. Even popular corporate chains like 7-Eleven, McDonald’s and Burger King have closed along with lots of massage shops. Language schools and cooking schools marketed to foreigners have closed. Businesses that haven’t closed are struggling, at best, according to business associations. Even the city’s hospitals, clinics and dentists rely on foriegners and medical tourism. With businesses closing, locals are losing their jobs and returning back to their home provinces.

The city runs off the tourism industry. About 80% of the city’s gross domestic profit is from hospitality and tourism, according to Pattaya City leaders. Pattaya was ranked 15th most visited city in the world last year and 8 – 10 million foreign tourist visit the city each year. There have been some domestic tourists heading to Pattaya since some of the coronavirus restrictions were lifted, but business owners say it’s not enough to stay open in the long term. Thai tourists generally don’t see Pattaya as tourist destination anyway.

The Pattaya News reporters spoke with Walking Street business owners. Many say they’re struggling to stay open. Some suggest the city should hold events to draw in domestic tourists to the city.

King Seafood on Walking Street, a well-known restaurant that offers a variety of lobster dishes, changed up their menu since they’ve had a drop in customers, offering rice dishes and Thai food to locals. The restaurant owner Prem Ruedee Sae Khow says many businesses in the city struggle just to make a daily profit of 1,000 baht.

She says there has been more tourists since the Thai government started initiatives to boost domestic tourism, but it’s not enough. People all over Thailand took a financial hit from the coronavirus pandemic. She says many don’t have enough money to spend on travel.

Walking Street souvenir shop owner Weerasak Cheung told Pattaya News that the government has helped out financially with bank loans and assistance on car payments, but that doesn’t solve the long term problem in the tourist city.

“If borders stay closed to international tourists for another 6 months, nearly the entire tourism industry in Pattaya could collapse.”

Since foreigner tourists aren’t around, Weerasak says there should be events marketed to Thai nationals like food festivals. He adds that some businesses have changed up their business model to focus on Thai nationals.

Bar owner Ud Kaewsuwan says he’s been in the business for 20 years. Nothing has been as bad as this, he says. Luckily, his landlord is helping out with rent until borders are opened again. But other landlords are still charging. He says it’s like “waiting for rain during a drought.”

Owner of the Stones House on Walking Street, Amphon Kaewsaeng, says her business is down 70%. Her customer base has changed from foreign tourists to Thai locals. She’s cut salaries to keep the business open, but says that if the situation does not improve, she’ll need to close, at least temporarily.

SOURCE: Pattaya News


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  1. Avatar


    Saturday, September 5, 2020 at 10:46 am

    Government could look at other countries for ideas, for example Mexico has opened several areas like Las Cabos with screening test and no quarantine, even there they have very few tourists still.

  2. Avatar


    Saturday, September 5, 2020 at 11:14 am

    Die Betreiber des bekannte Nachtleben’s in Pattaya haben viele, viele Jahre große Gewinne eingefahren, aber so wie es aussieht kein Geld angesammelt. Jetzt,durch Covid19 wo sich die Zeiten änderten, schreien Sie nach Hilfe und finanzielle Unterstützung. Haben die Betreiber überhaupt die ganzen Einnahmen voll versteuer? Ich denke eher nicht. Warum sollte der Staat jetzt helfen? Von mir aus können die A Go Go’s, Bierbars und sonstige anrüchigen Bars schließen.Nach der Pandemie gibt es genügend neue Inverstoren um diese Geschäfte neu zu eröffnen. Viel wichtiger ist es keine neuen Infektionen zu bekomme.

  3. Avatar


    Saturday, September 5, 2020 at 12:31 pm

    Pattaya tourism industry could collapse. Well, yes, it could collapse. I won`t tear my clothes and put on sackcloth in mourning when that happens. Not the first time, nor the last, that a business model of a city is phased out.

    • Avatar


      Saturday, September 5, 2020 at 9:37 pm

      that’s because you are a selfish elitist who enjoys security and income while people here are literally starving. you sicken me

      • Avatar


        Wednesday, September 9, 2020 at 8:26 am

        Totally agree. Easy to talk about the unimportance of the suffering of others when you are not the one suffering.

  4. Avatar


    Saturday, September 5, 2020 at 12:39 pm

    govt doesn’t care. people are still wandering around wearing masks. everyone is ignoring simple stats and facts. maybe dig up waking street and plant some rice instead. far too many people believing and trusting what their govt and media is telling them. sum num na.

  5. Avatar


    Saturday, September 5, 2020 at 1:31 pm

    Yes that is right,actually without international tourist thailand is nothing

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Tuesday, September 8, 2020 at 7:27 pm

      Pattaya is not “Thailand” – far from it, whatever farangs may think.

  6. Avatar


    Saturday, September 5, 2020 at 1:55 pm

    The government has destroyed the country of Thailand over a few deaths. SHame SHAME SHAME SHAME

    • Avatar


      Saturday, September 5, 2020 at 5:47 pm

      Have you ever wondered how many deaths there would have been if restrictions / lockdowns HAD NOT been put in place? Take a look at Brazil under Bolsonaro who thinks covid is a bit of a cold, 25,000 new infections in the last 25 HOURS and 125,000 DEATHS. Do you think the mainstream Thai population would put up with that to please the sex tourists?

      • Avatar

        Perceville Smithers

        Saturday, September 5, 2020 at 10:08 pm

        Bolsonaro is another Trump in that they both were in denial and called the virus a hoax. Neither wore a mask, did not practice social distancing and encouraged their followers not to lsten to the scientists and health officials.

        Best Management Practices and running around yelling the sky is falling are not the same!

        By the way,what’s up with your obsession with sex tourists?

    • Avatar


      Saturday, September 5, 2020 at 5:49 pm

      NONSENSE! The government has saved the country from terrible situations such as in neighboring countries Indonesia and the Philippines, with 8000 and 7000 deads officiall.

      But the actual number is probably much higher. Hundreds of thousands infected and tens of thousands seriously ill people, often with a lot of residual damage. Besides, 95% of the Thai population supports the touverment approach. Pattaya and Puket are not representative, however unpleasant for those economically affected there. We have to wait for a vaccine. A recovery will then come i.m.o. quickly. Just skip Pattaya a year!

      • Avatar

        Preesy Chepuce

        Saturday, September 5, 2020 at 7:43 pm

        These are still small numbers in countries with populations of 100m and 300m respectively. Not even close to the 4% at potential real risk. Governments must find a balance between health & economy.

      • Avatar


        Wednesday, September 9, 2020 at 8:31 am

        Erik where did you get your high numbers for long term illness due to Covid. Not saying you are wrong but I am interested.

    • Avatar

      Not only Thailand

      Saturday, September 5, 2020 at 11:03 pm

      yes, and overreaction is an understatement. They have around 65 fatalities since january, but they have more than 20 000 (twenry thousand) road deaths annually. Why not stop the traffic altogether? Would save lives….
      Of course, many European countries are reacting with similar hysteria. But not Sweden, and not Japan

  7. Avatar


    Saturday, September 5, 2020 at 2:38 pm

    In my country Holland everything is opend and almost no deaths.
    This is not about covid 19.
    This is about first break then reshape to how the government wants it to be.
    I wish the best for the thai people.
    Please stand up against your government beceause else live will not be so nice anny more in thailand.

  8. Avatar

    No honey no money

    Saturday, September 5, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    Back to Rice fields girls. No dirty farangs to save your depts next few years.

  9. Avatar


    Saturday, September 5, 2020 at 7:22 pm

    How can the language schools suffer? The agents are throwing EDs left and right.
    Guess atleast a few of the ppl that get it have to attend school, or is that part forgotten together with the requirements to get the visa outside the country.

  10. Avatar


    Saturday, September 5, 2020 at 9:26 pm

    Sex tourism in Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket can wait for another one year. Life of Thai nationals including young Thai girls and models in massage industry is very precious…. Bodily desires should be temporarly put on hold….

    • Avatar


      Tuesday, September 8, 2020 at 10:02 pm

      It can’t wait another year you braindead twerp. Millions of households depend on tourism, much of which is directly or indirectly sex tourism. I have a bodily desire to put my boot up your ignorant a55.

  11. Avatar


    Sunday, September 6, 2020 at 7:43 am

    Very sad to this many people have worked hard and put a lot of money into there business to see them close over the Covid 19. Its a catch 22 situation open we get sick stay closed we starve. Good luck to everyone in Pattaya.

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Thursday, September 10, 2020 at 9:34 am

      “In my country Holland everything is opend and almost no deaths”.

      Really, @Nick?

      “Almost no deaths”?

      As at this morning, 10 September, Holland had 6,246 deaths – that’s over a hundred times more than Thailand.

      Holland also has one of the worst Covid-19 fatality rates in the world at 80 per thousand (17 per thousand in Thailand, 30 in the US, and 33 per thousand worldwide).

      Outside Pattaya, Phuket and Patpong Thais are happy to put up with the loss of foreign tourist revenue in return for their lives.

      • Avatar


        Wednesday, September 16, 2020 at 6:00 pm

        I think you need to redo your calculations regarding Thailand figures. with 58 deaths distributed amongst a population of 70 million the deaths per 100,000 are just 0.082 not 17. (If it were 17 the death toll would be 11,900)

  12. Avatar

    Raphael Hythlodaeus

    Sunday, September 6, 2020 at 10:30 am

    If the Thai government and citizens wish to keep the international travel restrictions, resulting in an economy in free-fall with mass unemployment, then that is entirely their own concern and responsibility.

    Although I am very sorry for those who have lost their jobs and are just about surviving financially, on a selfish personal level I rather enjoy the lack of tourists, and I always thought an economy largely reliant on 40-million foreign visitors a year is not sensible, or environmentally sustainable. The writing was on the wall for Pattaya years ago (yes, I remember what it was like in 1980).

  13. Avatar

    Raphael Hythlodaeus

    Sunday, September 6, 2020 at 10:34 am

    Perhaps they should change the yellow banner in the photo from “INTERNATIONAL MEETING STREET” to “DOMESTIC MEETING STREET (Aliens) pay extra)”

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Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

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