Pattaya businesses say they desperately need foreign tourists to stay open

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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Caitlin Ashworth

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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