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Pattaya City needs Christmas lifeline

Entertainment venues in Pattaya have urged the government to ease Covid-related measures to allow them to resume operations and sell alcoholic drinks at open-air venues ahead of the New Year Festival in a bid to spur tourism.

Damrongkiat Phinitkarn, secretary of the Entertainment & Tourism Association of Pattaya City, said on Tuesday that since the country reopened on Nov 1, the government has not permitted entertainment venues in Pattaya, one of the country’s popular tourism destinations, to fully get back to business.

Mr Damrongkiat asked the government to expedite talks about potentially bringing the schedule forward so that these businesses can attract more domestic and international tourists and not miss out on this lucrative season.

Over 80% of the population has now been vaccinated and the rate of infections and Covid-19 clusters has dropped significantly, he said, adding that tourism operators are ready to comply with all the rules.

Tourism operators have voiced concern as the industry is being propped up by domestic visitors on weekends, with weekdays seeing a long lull that could force more SMEs to be shuttered.

Thanes Supornsahasrungsri, acting president of the Chon Buri Tourism Council, said since the country’s reopening, the reservation rate in Pattaya does not even account for half of the 120,000 rooms in small-to-large-sized hotels.

The situation is causing competition to become intense, with attractive promotions by four-to-five-star hotels leaving medium-to-small-sized hotels out in the cold, experts say.

Taking into account the volatility of the Covid-19 pandemic, many countries have imposed travel restrictions — obstructing people from Russia, India and China to travel to Thailand.

The conditions to enter the country can be a challenge as tourists must either be fully vaccinated or undergo several RT-PCR tests, which adds further expenses to their trip.

Travelling within sealed routes that do not offer great freedom or flexibility is another inhibiting factor, Mr Thanes said.

Phisut Sae-Khu, president of the Thai Hotels Association’s (THA) eastern chapter, said Pattaya has been organising more events to draw tourists to the province, but most of the foreigners who arrive are just visiting their families or running businesses in Thailand.

He said the hotels in Pattaya were almost fully reserved during the recent two-day Pattaya Fireworks Festival, but that this was only the case because it was a weekend.

If the situation has not improved by February, over 10% of SMEs will probably be shut down, he warned, noting that half of the members of the Pattaya Attraction Club are already out of business.

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