2019 has been one of the most challenging years ever experienced by many Pattaya businesses with the low-season sadly seeing many companies such as bars and restaurants going out of business. Most people are desperate for good high-season although really few, even the most optimistic, see it as something likely to happen. Let’s face it; we know that there is no chance of snow, but the chances of western tourists flocking back in large numbers have probably similar odds!
The closure of bars and restaurants in Pattaya has both positives and negatives. With visitor numbers falling, there had become an oversupply, and it is always the strongest that survive. The fact that it is the best that remain means that Pattaya is a more attractive proposition for visitors. Restaurateurs and bar owners know that they must maintain their high standards to survive. With a smaller customer base, the competition is becoming more cutthroat, which is often to the consumers’ benefit.
Pattaya and Thailand, in general, was once viewed as a “cheap” destination, but that is no longer the case. As we have touched upon before, many things are now more expensive, especially in places such as Terminal 21, than they are in people’s home countries. The strength of Thai Baht is undoubtedly a contributory factor, but prices have increased steadily in recent years with some ex-pats stating “greed” as one of the main reasons. With far cheaper alternatives such as Vietnam and Cambodia becoming more frequently talked means Pattaya is facing more threats than ever before.
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A lot of Thailand’s regular visitors came for several months at a time during the high season. However, with the many changes to visa and immigration policy, this is not always an option in modern times. Although the Thai tourist visa is still relatively easy to obtain and the rules are nowhere near as tight as they are for the retirement visa, for example, staying for three or six months is not as easy as it used to be. Loopholes such as border runs are getting closed all the time, reducing the available options.
Although many would claim that there is an element of paranoia attached to the claim, there is a significant minority that feels that foreigners are not welcome in Thailand. This beautiful country is regarded as the Land of Smiles; few believe that this still the case. A feeling of being unwanted does little to attract tourists during the high season when some of the points we have raised earlier already having people looking at alternatives. If foreigners are made to feel welcome again, then just maybe, 2020’s high season may be something to look forward to.
Negative press in Thailand as a whole has done little for the tourist industry, and this has been a particular problem with the Chinese market. A boat crash off Phuket killing several Chinese tourists did little for the country’s reputation, and some reports suggest that Chinese visitors have dropped off by around 25%. While this figure does seem exaggerated, it is noticeable that numbers have fallen this year which could have a devastating impact on the local economy.
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Although things may appear a little bleak at the current time, it should be noted that the Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) and City Hall are more than aware of the problem. Both groups are doing all they can to attract people to the city but in reality, what they can do is a little limited with most of the problem emanating much higher up the chain of command. However, every effort that is made will undoubtedly help so they should be praised for at least trying.
The many problems Pattaya has had in the past are closely associated with the city’s infrastructure not able to cope with the swathes of visitors. Many improvements have been made although many more are still needed to bring the city more in line with western standards. While this probably won’t be a reason on its own for visitors staying away, it could be a contributory factor for people who are examining all the pros and cons of Pattaya compared to other destinations.
One thing that should be noted is that the local developers still appear to remain confident that Pattaya is going to continue to grow and expand. Although this doesn’t come with any guarantees of course, generally they are entirely accurate. This, when combined with the fact that new hotels are continually being built at least, offers some glimmer of hope to suppress the foreign [PL1] business owners that remain but are crying out for business.
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It is something that we have touched upon many times; however, Pattaya is a city that continually evolves and perhaps the days of the traditional high season when western tourists came flocking to the city are drawing to a close. Chinese tourists are still coming, although as we mentioned not in the same numbers and the Russian numbers seem to be once again on the increase. These are groups who are less influenced by the high season and maybe could offer Pattaya a lifeline.
There have been several reports recently in the local and national press that the emphasis has now shifted towards Indian tourists. Indians have a connection with Pattaya and again could be a group that could be a significant boost to Pattaya’s fortunes. Indians visitors do have a reputation for being quite frugal, although there have been reports that this reputation is not actually correct amongst the majority. Let’s all hope that this is the case a Pattaya has a long and vibrant future ahead.
To conclude, it seems unimaginable that the high season will be a roaring success in Pattaya, but there are still signs of positivity that things can improve in 2020. Pattaya will inevitably adapt and change to meet the needs and demands of the visitors that are coming. The long-term prospects are good; just many businesses will have to survive until the better times present themselves.