Last week, The Pattaya News announced that Walking Street was open to traffic and allowing parking twenty four hours a day for the first time in many years. However, this is just the first step in adapting the street during the current Covid-19 crisis according to the Pattaya Mayor Sonthaya Khunplume.
At a series of meetings over the weekend, chaired by Pattaya Mayor Sonthaya Khunplume and attended by all the deputy mayors and other staff, the city leaders specifically discussed how to “reboot” Walking Street.
Due to international borders remaining closed to foreign tourists and no signs from the Thai Government that this will change anytime soon, the city has decided they must temporarily change focus for the Walking Street area, normally packed with thousands of foreign tourists nightly.
The opening of traffic and allowing street parking was the first phase of this plan. Although widely shared photos showed traffic jams on the first night of allowing traffic overall the Pattaya Police have stated that the plan has been “smooth” and baht buses and taxi cabs have been instructed not to loiter or wait for customers.
The next phase of the plan, which has already begun, will include encouraging street vendors and other types of market vendors to directly park and set up shop on the street, with a focus on products and services that appeal to Thai customers. The Pattaya News toured Walking Street last night, Monday, August 10th, and noted there were dozens of food carts on the street. Previously, food carts were banned from being on the street except specific times. Part of the plan is to encourage tourists returning from day-trips to Koh Larn to then browse the street market on Walking Street for meals, products and services.
There will also be several upcoming street festivals, aimed at the domestic Thai market, for Walking Street to reinvigorate the area featuring Thai performers, singers, artists and many food and other vendors. The exact dates for these will be announced in the near future, said City Hall.
Finally, City Hall is working with local business to encourage them to re-open if possible to make the street more lively. However, many of the entertainment venues on Walking Street remain closed due to lack of foreign customers and say they are waiting until borders open and conserving costs. Some businesses are even changing their business model, such as Irany Disco, Glassi and others and are focused almost entirely on the Thai market now, advertising in the language and welcoming Thai tourists. Many of these venues previously focused on the Indian and Arab market but with borders closed they have been forced to remodel. Gogos and discos that previously did not allow Thai customers, especially transgender and males, have now changed their policies.
Mayor Khunplume says all these changes are “temporary” until borders open but that could still be months away. Thailand has gone nearly eighty days without a single locally spread case.