The world is a rapidly changing place, perhaps more now than ever before as we learn to appreciate life far more after the coronavirus pandemic. It was evident in the middle of 2020 that lockdowns and a lack of tourists had hit not only ex-pat businesses but had a devastating impact on the locals, many of whom struggled for food and water. Thankfully, good-natured foreigners and Thais helped feed the hundreds, if not thousands in need and the city slowly started to come out of the other side.
Pattaya has always been a city that relies upon tourists; after all, it is a resort, and that was what resorts do. Pattaya has changed significantly in recent years, partly by choice and partly due to the changing world in which we live – even long before the COVID-19 was ever heard of. It is now a far more family-friendly environment in which to visit, and for the most part, this is a good thing. With western tourists being down almost 50% in the last decade the infamous bar and nightlife scene is far less popular.
However, relying on large groups, primarily from China and Russia, has exposed how vulnerable the city is should something like this happen again. While all tourists have been barred, for the most part, tour groups in the same numbers as before will take far longer to replace. Indeed, Pattaya City Hall recently announced that its objective is to become 60% less dependent on tourism by 2025. They hope to rely more on ex-pats, predominantly those working in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), and view this as central to Pattaya’s long-term success.
There are still those that believe that there is still an essential role for western tourists to play in Pattaya’s short to medium-term future. Many have felt alienated in recent years due to rising prices, greed, and excessive red tape. The objective remains to attract “high-quality tourists” to the city. However, many singles still enjoy the championship standard golf courses and other attraction s that extend far beyond the city’s bars and nightclubs. Often these people have reasonable disposable incomes but have moved away from Pattaya, choosing cheaper, friendlier options closer to home.
When Pattaya, or perhaps more accurately, Thailand, does return to normal, maybe the powers that be will realize that “neo-Pattaya” as seems to be the current buzz word, needs to welcome all groups. It is something which the city was renowned for but appears to have been forgotten about in recent times with the focus centered on certain groups. A significant part of the city’s success in the past can be attributed to the fact that it appeals to everyone. 2021 would be the perfect time to return to this way of thinking and although not change Pattaya forever, return to a more prosperous time for all.
For anyone returning to Pattaya after several months away, the landscape of the resort has changed significantly in the last few months. It is a different place, the tourists are nowhere to be seen, and many of the older places which everyone was familiar with have closed their doors, many of which have done so permanently. Survival of the fittest has been a massive part of 2020 and this will be even more evident in 2021 and will alter Pattaya forever. Long-term, this will undoubtedly benefit visitors as well as locals and ex-pats.
It would be hard to describe 2020 as anything other than disastrous for most businesses globally, but as we move into 2021, here in Pattaya, there are many positives that we can still take from the