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Pattaya – fighting to survive its Covid crisis




Pattaya, like some of Thailand’s other former tourist hotspots, is facing some critical challenges. Hundreds of thousands of workers have left the city because there’s simply no work and up to 50% of the city’s shops are closed, some never to re-open. The Thaiger filmed most of this video on a long weekend at the end of October, the busiest Pattaya had been in 7 months.

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As Thailand struggles along without the benefit of its usual tourist traffic, four key former tourist magnets are facing particular hardships. Phuket, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai… and Pattaya. Whilst there are patches of business activity, just about everything connected directly with the city’s tourism business are perilously quiet, particularly on weekdays. That means the employees, the business owners, their families, the landlords and their bank are all suffering as the chain of woes reaches deep into Pattaya’s broader community.

Despite the Thai government’s attempts to deny the true reason for Pattaya’s popularity over the past 6 years, including the annual walk-through the city’s red light hot spots and declaring there was no crime or prostitution, the sleazier side of Pattaya has continued to grow, with a growing number of proprietors trying to glean an income out of a slowly declining western patronage. Things were changing and business was getting tighter long before the Covid-19 and Thailand’s border closures.

n 2016, Thailand’s first female Minister of Tourism, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, announced that Thailand was “closed to the sex trade”. Walking Street was to be gentrified and some of the red lights moved back from the foreshore to establish new bar and bar girl districts.

Several NGO reports have published the number of prostitutes in Pattaya were between 27,000 up to 30,000, depending on the report you read. The plight for these sex workers, post Covid, is bleak. As their work wasn’t officially recognised they weren’t able to access any of the government’s unemployment stimulus payments and weren’t protected under any of the country’s labour laws. Luckily for some of them, their employees worked hard to help them through the crisis. One of those is manager Timmy who works for the Night Wish Group.At their peak they ran up to 29 bars in Pattaya. Many of those have closed. At the moment they have about 13 open, as of the end of October.

For now Pattaya’s red lights have dimmed somewhat although it’s hardly all closed up. Some of the bars have also pivoted to an online model, with mixed results, where the bar girls, and bar boys, are able to ‘chat’ to online customers, viewers can buy them drinks and business continues as usual. Some bars have even stayed closed and are going 100% online with their digital bars. One proprietor told The Thaiger the online bar scene had become very lucrative but was unsure how long the novelty would last.

Apart from the steep decline in total tourist traffic, there’s been a big change in the mix, now mostly domestic tourists. Many businesses are switching up their business models to suit. Many just closed down, seemingly waiting it out to see what happens.

With much of the city’s old workforce abandoning Pattaya and heading home, there are still pockets of local life where communities have banded together to help each other through, whilst waiting for some sort of normality to return. For the tourist areas, mostly closer to the beaches, businesslike is patchy indeed.


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    1. Avatar

      Dirty Farang

      Tuesday, October 27, 2020 at 2:20 pm

      of course they will survive! Yesterday just 156 new chinese tourists arrived in Thailand!

    2. Avatar


      Tuesday, October 27, 2020 at 3:06 pm

      Don’t worry. The knight in shining armor is already sending his troops from Beijing. All will be good. Once Thailand is another Chinese protectorate all will be save. The Prime Minister will be called provincial governor and all will live happily ever after.

    3. Avatar

      Peter 2

      Tuesday, October 27, 2020 at 3:29 pm

      Thank You Tiger for interesting report.

      • Avatar

        Johnny Dee

        Wednesday, October 28, 2020 at 9:14 am

        Excellent report keep up the great work…. I’m so missing Pattaya and my beautiful fiancé but I speak to her everyday and send her money so she’s ok but it’s the single ladies with no income I worry about…. the borders need to open very soon as this virus is only a flu and we have to live with it. Life has to go on and the economy had to go on or we are all doomed.

    4. Avatar

      John Smith

      Tuesday, October 27, 2020 at 5:40 pm

      Didn’t thaiger say less than a week ago that Thailand was getting on with things and boasting you speak with business people and everything wasn’t that bad. Now why don’t I think you have the courage to post my comment.

    5. Avatar

      Toby Andrews

      Tuesday, October 27, 2020 at 6:58 pm

      I hope the Hooters Bar does not survive.
      The last time I went in there I had to “Wait to be seated”
      There was nobody at the desk!
      Maybe that treatment is normal in the USA, but it does not work in Pattaya, where good looking girl bars are everywhere – with no wait to be seated.
      I hope the beach chairs go out of business. They took away the B50 deck chairs and replaced them with B80 sunbeds.
      The beer is top price and at six o’clock you have to pay up and go.
      However there are good places in Pattaya I will be sorry to see go. The Beer Garden is one.

      • Avatar

        Perceville Smithers

        Wednesday, October 28, 2020 at 3:43 am

        The Hooters in Thailand have poor service compared to the ones I’ve been to in the U.S. and Colombia. It’s so bad I’ve wondered if they were taught to be dismissive and inattentive their new hire training.

    6. Avatar


      Tuesday, October 27, 2020 at 9:37 pm

      Pattaya will survive, it might take awhile to fully bounce back, but survival is assured. It is a true economic engine in Thailand and unique. All it need to rebound is the resumption of western tourists.

    7. Avatar

      Mike Frenchie

      Wednesday, October 28, 2020 at 2:19 am

      Well, with 75-80% of the GDP (local) relying on tourism (mainly foreign) and no foreigner till probably Q4 2021… Pattaya has zero chance to go through the coming 12 months without some massive bankruptcies (hotel chains, real estate developers…). Pattaya needs 400 billion THB of foreign money to go on and nobody local can help on that scale (the local retired expats are usually on low pension scheme). Anyone with a million THB left next Summer will be able to buy some sizable biz.

      • Avatar

        Johnny Dee

        Wednesday, October 28, 2020 at 9:37 am

        All governments around the world please someone with common sense realise this is a flu a virus that’s going to be around for years we have to live with this or there’s going to be nothing left… If every president or government chief was like Donald Trump the world would be in a far better place…. good luck for next week and il pay for you’re flight to Thailand to meet the hierarchy and tell them how to end this crazy year on a high… good times are around the corner guys hopefully

    8. Avatar

      Mike Frenchie

      Wednesday, October 28, 2020 at 2:20 am

      Excellent report!

    9. Avatar

      Issan John

      Wednesday, October 28, 2020 at 3:26 pm

      Opening Pattaya as a government-sponsored gambling hub, based initially around the Ambassador which is coincidentally built with exactly the right layout of ‘ballrooms’ that could be used for gambling with no changes to the layout, and with U-Tapao on the doorstep, would attract millions of Chinese as an alternative to Macau.

      That would put all the underground gambling out of business overnight, with their income going not to organised crime but to Thailand instead, and provide all the money required to keep Pattaya going and resolve any economic issues Thailand has as a result of losing tourists since Macau gets over US$40 billion a year from their ‘tourism’ industry..

      Just a thought …..

    10. Avatar

      Johnny Dee

      Wednesday, October 28, 2020 at 11:48 pm

      My friends have been going for many years and are proper sleazy predators but they understand the situation. Jack and Scott are very sleazy and are chomping at the bit but me on the other hand keep telling them it will open very soon as the country needs tourists hopefully not very long opening… keep the faith guys we shall return shortly

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