Pattaya puts faith in leisure tourism entry loophole

A Thai massage lady hopes the revamped tourist visa will help her business.

Owners and managers of Pattaya’s fast-decaying entertainment industry are now pinning their hopes on the new availability of the SETR (Single Entry Tourist Visa) at most Thai embassies abroad. The SETR is on offer for foreign tourists who want to spend up to three months in Thailand during what used to be called the high season. The visa allows the entrant a 60 days’ vacation but can be extended once for a further month at Thai immigration.

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Some commentators believe that the SETV won’t take off as all entrants must serve their 14 days in a Thai quarantine hotel at their own expense before being allowed to circulate freely. However, several Pattaya restauranteurs and bar owners have told Pattaya Mail that they are in touch by email with former customers, particularly from UK and Scandinavia, who say they have already applied for the SETV at their home-country Thai embassy.

Bangkok tuk-tuk drivers are hearing reports of more European tourists on the way.

Jack Kelly, who runs an Irish-style bar and small hotel with his Thai wife in East Pattaya, said, “We are already full for Christmas and the New Year and these are old customers who are desperate to return to Thailand. They certainly dislike the idea of compulsory quarantine for two weeks, but feel it is worth the effort.”

There was a similar reaction from several gay bars in the Jomtien Complex which are desperately drumming up business by organizing Bingo nights and singing competitions. “Lots of overseas customers are emailing and phoning that they will be here in January at the latest,” said Tan, a waiter at the popular Sun bar.


Whether this optimism is justified remains to be seen. But the Association of British Travel Agents and the Pacific Travel Association certainly believe that the SETV is proving popular amongst sections of the general travelling public. “The key,” says Greg Watkins of ABTA, “is that the SETV is available from countries even with a Covid-19 problem whilst the compulsory insurance for the virus is available cheaply on-line. The typical cost for two months’ cover from UK for anyone aged 0-99 is about a hundred pounds. The SETV does not require compulsory medical insurance beyond Covid-19 threats, unlike some other visa choices.

But if the SETV might assist tourist income from Europe in particular, it will do little to help those fun businesses dependent on Chinese visitors. Many of the shows and attractions in Pattaya catering for them remain under lock and key. Thai minister of tourism, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, pointed that the travel bubble idea was not proceeding at the moment because of a flare-up in infections in several partner countries. Moreover, the Chinese government was currently favouring domestic tourism, rather than foreign, since the risks of spreading coronavirus were so much less.

According to virtually all Thai embassy websites in Europe, the SETV is available on submission of substantial documentation. This includes Covid-19 insurance available on line for all ages up to 99 years, proof of adequate funds in bank accounts for a vacation, payment for 14 days’ quarantine, evidence of accommodation post-quarantine, pre-departure health checks and air ticket. Costs will vary according to the specific facilities of the quarantine hotel and the class of air travel chosen, but a general estimate is 2,500 UK pounds or 3,000 US dollars or 100,000 Thai baht. For those able and willing to escape the European winter, it may seem a fair deal.