By Natasha Sethi
Pattaya, a hyper-touristy city known for its equatorial beaches and electrifying nightlife, is now a ghost town with only locals keeping the city alive and the economy flowing – just about. Walking Street is more like The Walking Dead and the city that never sleeps has been sleeping for a while. Since Pattaya’s economy relies excessively on tourism, the COVID-19 restrictions have taken a heavy toll on people with tourism-dependent jobs. Even so, many of its inhabitants remain loyal to the city and the lives they’ve built up there.
Masala interviewed four community members living in Pattaya on why they continue to stay, despite the ongoing challenges and setbacks.
Doctor of Alternative and Thai Medicine
“My clinic is entirely dependent on tourists. All our patients have always been from abroad, mostly from Europe, Australia, and the Middle-East, and they used to fly to Thailand especially for my treatment, so it’s not been easy for my business. Leaving Pattaya is not even an option for me right now, mostly because of family commitments. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit us, Pattaya was doing very well, and I believe that we will go back to that. If you’d asked me a year ago whether we’d be able to survive a year without tourists, I’d have said no, but here we are. It’s taught me that there’s always an element of hope, and that’s what keeps me going.”
Marketing Manager, Beans & Beer Café
“We’re a small café located in South Pattaya, and we serve international cuisine. This industry is reliant on people coming to dine in, whether it be tourists from other countries, locals, or domestic tourists. Thankfully, because we also rely on the latter, our business, and even Pattaya in general, could be doing a lot worse.
“Nevertheless, it’s been very quiet as we are rather dependent on the city’s famed nightlife, which has been temporarily shut down. However, many locals are still choosing Pattaya as their holiday destination, and we’ve got a few expats who frequently eat out so we’re doing better than other Thai tourist hotspots. We’re also using a low-price strategy and have resorted to food delivery services to generate revenue. Regardless of how hard the pandemic has hit us, I would not move to Bangkok or anywhere else.”
“Being the first-ever Indian restaurant in Pattaya, Alibaba has always relied on tourism, like much of the city. However, an upside of theconsequences of this pandemic is that we now have a different customer base, one we never expected. We have much more local clientelenow, with customers from Pattaya itself, from neighboring cities, and expatriates. Luckily, Thai people these days are happy to experiment with different cuisines, including Indian food, so we’ve been relying on domestic tourism. I guess it’s a case of, ‘you lose some, you win some.’
“Pattaya is home. There’s no doubt that it’s been bad, but the market and economy here are still sustainable; it’s not yet hit the kind of rock bottom where we’ve had to consider moving to Bangkok or anywhere else. At least home deliveries and takeaways have been keeping us busy. While we definitely want to expand our business beyond just this city, we wouldn’t want to move away.”
Dilbir Singh Sahni
Managing Director, Indo-Bangkok Group
“Wedding and event planning, assisting in the film production of Indian movies, and being an in-house travel agent, are all areas that are entirely dependent on inbound tourism – specifically, tourists from India. Consequently, having been in this business for 21 years, thispandemic has taken a huge toll on my work.
“My employees that are native Indians have flown back to India due to the lack of tourists and work. I myself am considering flying to India within the next few months, simply because of boredom, rather than anything else. I’m hoping to inform people there that Thailand will be opening up soon and that they should be ready to travel, with the intention of promoting my business, this city, and this country itself.
“Despite the economic issues, I choose to stay loyal to Pattaya because I haven’t given up yet – with the vaccine and the number of cases reducing, there is a ray of hope that things will get better very soon. Another reason is that I already have more than 10 film production companies that are on standby, and are simply waiting for the green light from the government to be able to travel to Thailand.”