Marlowe Malhotra, who runs Vicky Travel, reckons that the boom times are returning to Pattaya. “International air fares to and from Thailand are at last slowly coming down,” he says, “whilst the massively expanded U-tapao airport is providing fast motorway links to both Bangkok and Pattaya.” A Pattaya businessman since the 1970s, Marlowe expects Thailand as a whole to see 25 million visitors in 2023, with at least 9 million homing in on Pattaya.
The biggest factor, according to Marlowe, is the abolition of the requirement for tourists to show health and insurance documentation to get into Thailand. “There was some confusion about the issue in early January which led to some Europeans cancelling their vacations, but Thailand is now just as open as before the pandemic.” He reckons that the pent-up demand for foreign travel is only just beginning.
Vicky Travel, almost unique in Pattaya for having remained open throughout the pandemic, is diversifying beyond just selling air tickets or booking accommodation. “Many Europeans, Americans and Australians want side trips to neighboring countries such as Cambodia or Vietnam and may well require an online visa as well as pre-flight registration,” says Marlowe’s daughter Vicky. “Because we are up to date with the requirements and the online systems, we are getting more and more enquiries.”
Marlowe accepts that India and Russia – and potentially China of course – have expanding niche markets in Thailand, he notes that many of the longstay visitors are British and Scandinavians. For example, most of the one-day visa runners to the Cambodian border are European passport holders seeking another 45 days on entry plus another month later at local immigration. “They can actually spend five months in Thailand without needing a prior visa, with just a single day trip to the border, and the European snowbird retirees are certainly taking advantage of this.”
“Of course, Pattaya is changing. It always has been. It’s no longer a wild west town and has become more family orientated with business conferences now flocking to the high class hotels. But its beaches are still the second most popular seaside search on the internet and there’s no shortage of raunchy night life for those seeking it. Pattaya has found the secret of continuous expansion as the criticisms just bounce off.” That’s evolution.