Businesses in Pattaya are shifting focus from foreign travellers to local visitors after the government postponed the city’s reopening until 1st November.
The reopening plan for five areas — Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Hua Hin and Phetchaburi — faced another setback after the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) decided to push it back from 1st October to 1st November.
For Pattaya, Hua Hin and Chiang Mai, this was the third postponement since the initial reopening was announced for mid-September, all attributed to a vaccine shortage.
Critics said confusion over reopening timelines has spoiled the chances of the tourism industry rebounding during the coming high season as inconsistent policies damage the country’s credibility and international tour operators refrain from planning packages until policies are confirmed.
Boon-anant Pattanasin, president of the Pattaya Business and Tourism Association, said Pattaya’s businesses have had plans in place to welcome back foreign visitors in line with the government’s strict curbs since August.
Reopening under the “Pattaya Moves On” tourism sandbox project was originally scheduled to start on 1st October, only to be put on hold after the government decided to delay the reopening plan, causing confusion among foreigners who had planned visits, he said.
To ensure the survival of their businesses, operators have had to adjust by shifting their focus onto foreign travellers during the high season to Thai visitors, Mr Pattanasin said.
Business operators will meet with local tourism authorities to discuss plans to hold safe small-scale events to attract Thai tourists, he said.
“The hopes for foreign arrivals are zero now. We are now pinning our hopes on Thai tourists who still visit Pattaya over the weekends in large numbers. The businesses must carry on so workers and employees can earn their living to support their families,” he said.
Pattaya City mayor, Sonthaya Khunpluem, said that the Pattaya reopening plan has been postponed out of concern that 70% of locals in Pattaya, Sattahip and Bang Lamung districts had only received their first COVID-19 vaccine shot.
Therefore, the Health Ministry needs to be sure they are fully vaccinated before the city can reopen, he said.