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Why Thailand refuses to reopen to tourism

PATTAYA – Looking for a US$50 a night five-star hotel on an empty beach? You might consider a trip to Thailand’s notorious Pattaya beach resort, the “old lady” of the nation’s sometimes seamy tourism industry.   

Pattaya, the once gyrating, all-night entertainment hedonistic hotspot just 100 kilometers southeast of Bangkok, has mellowed over the past eight months of a Covid-19 ban on international travel.

“For sale” signs dot the main beachfront road on deserted bars, shops, restaurants and the hotels and restaurants that have managed to stay afloat are offering huge discounts.

An estimated 100,000 Thais previously working at the beachside resort, where tourism normally accounts for 80% of the local economy, have gone home. Walking Street, which pre-Covid offered tourists a trot on the wild side at night, is now a spooky stroll through shuttered bars and restaurants.   

The once-bustling Pattaya beach, crowded in the pre-Covid era with hundreds of Chinese tourists boarding speed boats to nearby Koh Lan island, and Western tourists sipping beers in the sun, is mostly empty, especially on the weekdays. Weekend business has picked up somewhat thanks to Thai traffic from nearby Bangkok.

Of course, unless you live in Thailand, getting to Pattaya as a tourist is problematic. Thailand has banned nearly all international flights since April 4, when the government enforced a nationwide lockdown for two months (April-May) that shuttered most restaurants, cinemas, massage parlors, bars and other entertainment venues.

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