The coronavirus and the curfew has killed not only the human touch, sense of sharing, sense of compassion between people, trading in microscopic levels and the economy in the macro scale, but has also slaughtered the life of a street that is home to a dashing, lively and hopeful group of business people.
The street that was once very famous for its nightlife, entertainment and shopping among tourists of all nationalities, be they Chinese, Russian, Thai, European, Indian and from many other friendly nations, now resembles a creepy street in a ghost town.
A business owner and long-time resident in Pattaya Walking Street sent me a set of photos to illustrate the actual scenes, so that I could show the world that everything in Pattaya is ‘dead’. The photos were taken at 8 p.m. on Saturday, even before the curfew was to be imposed at 10 p.m. It is obvious that not even a single soul was visible all the way deep into the heart of Walking Street.
Those who are paying rent, and mind you, rent in Walking Street is very expensive, are crying with their tortured hearts. Some of them have paid a lump sum in advance for their yearly leases in the hope of starting a new business this year, but now had to ask for their money back, not even knowing whether they will get any refund at all.
Then there are people from all over Thailand who have just moved to Pattaya in the hope of starting a new life, who had to pack their belongings and leave in a hurry. Workers in clubs and go-go bars were forced out of their jobs just as the closing orders became effective weeks ago. Grocery stores were just barely making ends meet before the order to close was issued. Now with the curfew in place, things have become even worse.
The government warned that any gatherings would be a big risk of spreading the coronavirus because it is highly contagious, so for safety reasons they decided to order the closure of businesses, first in Walking Street, then the beaches, then shopping malls, restaurants, massage parlors, spas, boat trips to islands and practically all kinds of business serving tourists and the local population, forcing tens of thousands of employees out of their jobs and losing their wages.
Thousands of hotel employees are out of work. They were suddenly made homeless, but still the authorities forbid them from travelling back to their home provinces where they have homes and families. So where can they go?
The ‘Welcome to New Normal’ headline on the front page of Pattaya Mail this week expresses it all. Many key tourism associations such as the Pattaya Business and Tourism Association and the Thai Hotels Association still hold on to a glimpse of hope and are trying to cheer up the local business people by saying that “this misery will end soon and we all will get back to our sustainable lives in the very near future.”
The question is ‘When?’ not ‘How?’ The latter we all know – it’s a question of ‘When?’ because tourism revival requires two-hands to clap. Our old friends from all over the world are ready to come back and I know that they definitely will. They know deep down in their hearts that Thai people will always welcome them back with smiles and warm hospitality.
But before they do come back, they will have to be sure that Thailand is clear of the dreaded coronavirus. They will need assurances from the authorities including the Public Health Department that there is no more virus in Thailand and that the Thai people will continue to abide strictly with the hygiene and public cleanliness that is being so ardently practiced during this crisis. That we take virus alerts seriously and implement protective measures immediately before it gets out of hand.
Then only, can we expect tourism to Thailand to bounce back to our good old days and our businesses will bloom again.
But the question still remains, ‘When?’