As one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world it was most unfortunate that Pattaya had to endure the whole year of lockdown and closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This calamity caused great pain and suffering to everyone in the tourism sector, big and small, locally and nationally.
The second wave of Covid-19 pandemic struck just before the much-anticipated Pattaya Countdown Festival Dec 29-31 on New Year’s Eve, forcing the city fathers to cancel the massive money-earning event just days before the long holidays.
This was an unfathomable let-down for local businesses and soured their relationship with the authorities bringing down their trust of the government to an all-time low. They blamed corrupt government officials for letting the COVID-19 sneak into the country and thus destroying all hope of recovering some of their massive losses cause by the first virus outbreak shutdown.
Pattaya City could not organize any events and festivals during January and February because Chonburi province was categorized as a ‘red zone’ along with Bangkok and Samut Sakhon province and many other COVID-19 danger zones in the country.
Chonburi Governor ordered the closing of all night entertainment which affected the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people in the tourism and hospitality industry. Most of the employees lost their jobs or their salaries were reduced to unbearable levels. This caused a chain reaction whereby every shop, noodle stand and food shop lost practically all of their income.
It was a major relief when on February 1, the authorities allowed restaurants and bars to open to serve food and alcoholic beverages, though operating hours were restricted to 10 p.m. Since then, the operating hours have been allowed to extend until midnight.
It is to be seen whether this measure will have any major effect on job opportunities and income of business operators and workers in Pattaya as a whole.
Pattaya is now looking forward with optimism to revive some of our lost revenue and opportunities by catering to domestic holiday makers during weekends and public holidays.
Just last week, Pattaya saw an influx of Thai tourists during the extended Makha Bucha weekend on 26-28 February. This was a windfall for local businesses. Hotels that remained opened were packed, so were the restaurants and most especially the beaches. Beach vendors of chairs, umbrellas, food and drinks wore huge smiles of relief as they saw a flicker of hope for survival.
In recent months business operators heavily criticized the mayor for cancelling events and other disruptions such as long-drawn-out periods of road diggings all over town. Many areas where holes were repetitively dug up to bury electricity or water pipes, were covered up and then dug up again. There didn’t seem to be proper planning or management.
Residents are distraught as they see their beloved home turned into a ghost town.
It came to the point where people used social media to compare Pattaya with Bangsaen beach 40 kilometres to the north. They posted pictures showing Bangsaen thriving with tens of thousands of tourists, while Pattaya looked like a ghost town. They said that Thai tourists preferred to go to Bangsaen because the resort was clean and orderly while Pattaya was deserted and the roads are all under construction.
One of the major complaints of businesses and most especially the beach vendors was the lack of parking space on Beach Road.
Last weekend, Pattaya city officials were quick off the mark. Having had their hands tied by recent unsavory events caused by the lockdown, they saw their chance to redeem the faith and trust of the people.
Within hours before the holiday period, city officials were seen marking the road with ‘parking allowed’ signs on both sides of Beach Road from the north Pattaya curve at Dusit Thani Hotel all the way down to the entrance of Walking Street in South Pattaya.
The letup of parking restrictions along Beach road was welcomed by businesses and residents alike. Last weekend Beach Road was as busy as ever. Thousands of cars, pickups and motorbikes were seen driving on or parked by the roadside while families enjoyed swimming or just relaxing on beach chairs under the cool shade of the beach umbrellas.
Pattaya’s state of affairs is still very fragile. We are fully dependent on tourists both foreign and domestic. Whatever remedy the city fathers have up their sleeves to help get Pattaya back on its feet, is long overdue. They must not lose the momentum and must diligently carry on doing whatever it takes to bring more visitors and travelers to Pattaya. It may be a long while yet before Pattaya returns to its former glory, but it is your responsibility to keep Pattaya alive and kicking.
We don’t want to see more people packing up their families and belongings and leaving Pattaya for good. We wish for them to stay on to fulfil their dreams of building a better life for themselves and their families here in Pattaya.