Pattaya thankfully opens up, but unclear who is coming

The return of international tourists is Pattaya’s dearest desire.

Lots of good news about Pattaya is pouring out. November and December will see lots of mass attractions including music and cultural festivals, fireworks displays and a thrilling countdown to new year 2022. The curfew lingers for now 11 pm – 3 am, but might have a short future. Legal booze will be back on December 1, barring virus hiccups, and chrome pole dancers can start writhing once again in Sexy Soi Six.

Pattaya Mayor Sonthaya Kunplome admits that the opening up will appeal to domestic tourists, principally Bangkokians, who already crowd parts of Pattaya at weekends as curfew enforcement and the booze sales ban seem to have a few holes in their respective buckets. The mayor also anticipates 200,000 foreign tourists per month in the immediate future, an optimistic view echoed by Pattaya’s entertainment and tourism association.

Exactly how wannabe tourists will enter the country is not yet crystal clear. We know that the hated certificate of entry provided by embassies will be replaced by a website-based app Thailand Pass to receive the uploaded application documentation. TP will then issue to successful applicants an email letter of confirmation, not a traditional visa, which passengers will show airline staff and Thai airport immigration officers who can access all computerized details by scanning the passport.

Everybody wonders if Pattaya’s nightlife can brighten any time soon.

The all-important detail on what documentation is required has not yet been published but will likely include Covid insurance and a self-declared health and vaccination history to be scrutinized remotely by Thailand’s Department of Disease Control. Provided there are no mammoth internet site collapses, the new system will be a simplified version of the embassy-controlled and familiar bureaucracy. But hopes that tourists will once again vacation in Thailand armed only with a passport and an air ticket, without prior vetting, are most improbable.

Most of Thailand’s international tourists in 2019, the last normal year, were from China, India and Russia. Russia has already agreed to restart flights to Thailand, including charter, although no detail agreed yet. Chinese embassy spokesperson Yang Xin told the Bangkok Post that reopening talks could begin, although currently Chinese group vacationers cannot travel abroad. The situation in India is similarly blurred. It is likely to be December at the earliest before Thai airports notice much difference.

British sources are adopting a wait and see approach too. The overall European contribution to the Thai tourist trade has been dropping steadily for many years and was less than 10 percent two years ago, with the UK counting around one percent. The BBC noted that Thailand was getting ready for reopening, but commented only on the end of lengthy quarantine for fully-vaccinated Brits. The British government has removed Thailand from its red-zone danger list, but remains cautionary about vacationing there. Some vaccines used in Thailand, notably Chinese brands, are not acceptable for entry to the UK. Thailand’s tourist door is indeed being unlocked, but it may take a while yet for sun worshippers to ring the bell.