76 Garage is an outdoor restaurant located on the northern outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand. It has long been a favored choice for Chinese tourists visiting the Thai capital.
And people go there to see the servers rather than the meal.
The restaurant has a swimming pool in the center of it. The highlight of the evening is when the group of young, athletic waiters volunteer to take the guests into the pool for a photo op and a gratuity. They strip down to their shorts.
Once upon a time, reservations for tables at 76 Garage had to be made one month in advance due to its immense popularity. Currently, half of the tables are vacant.
The Chinese are Thailand’s most important tourism market, but they are absent.
Thailand had great expectations when China eventually removed zero-Covid restrictions in January, enabling its residents to travel abroad. It anticipated a spike in business that would aid in the tourism sector’s recovery of a large portion of the territory it had lost during the Covid pandemic.
By year’s end, the authorities expected up to five million Chinese visitors, which is still less than half of the approximately 11 million that arrived in 2019. But a significant increase over the 250,000 that were present the previous year.
That hopeful picture has proven to be much too idealistic. Less than 2.5 million arrived in 2023’s first nine months.
“Our tourism ministry stated that after the pandemic, visitor numbers would quickly recover,” Anucha Liangruangreongkit, a 42-year Grand Palace in Bangkok tour guide who speaks Chinese, said.
However, they are dreaming. I should know; I am a guide. It would be crowded if things were normal, as they were in the past, right? Check it out now. Is this place packed with people? No.
A portion of the issue stems from China’s faltering economy and the lack of low-cost airlines following COVID-19.
With the announcement of a five-month visa waiver, the newly elected Thai government sought to attract more travelers. However, a shooting incident on October 3rd at Bangkok’s most well-known mall, which claimed the life of a Chinese woman of two children, exacerbated Thailand’s and other South East Asian nations’ image issues.
Many Chinese people now view them as hazardous.
A new movie titled No More Bets made tens of millions of dollars in its first few days at the Chinese box office in August, when it became an enormous blockbuster. It showed a computer programmer and a Chinese model being tricked into a scam center in an unidentified South East Asian nation with the promise of high-paying jobs, where they were made to labor like slaves.
Alarming reports over the previous two to three years of thousands of people—many of them Chinese—being caught in these scam centers in Cambodia and along Thailand’s unregulated borders with Myanmar and Laos provided the impetus for No More Bets. Those who have escaped have also shared horrible stories of abuse and torture on Chinese social media.
Chinese student Abby lives in Thailand and enjoys vlogging to her social media followers about sites like 76 Garage. She has noticed changes in the common perception of Thailand through comments left under her TikTok channel.
READ MORE ON THIS STORY: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-67305693