The Thai Prime Minister, Prayut Chan O’Cha, visited the Rayong and Chonburi area earlier this week to attend several meetings, events and visit places like U-Tapao airport and the new motorway. During this visit the Prime Minister reportedly met with leaders from Chonburi and members of the tourist and business industry in Pattaya where they informed the Prime Minister just how dire the situation is on the ground.
Although exact details from the meeting were not released, the Prime Minister did say in a speech afterwards that he understands the dire situation for tourism, especially in Pattaya, Phuket, Samui and other tourist islands. He stated that Thailand must bring back foreign tourists but it must also be done safely. He stated that the tourism industry could not simply sit and wait for a vaccine, as if they did many businesses would not survive.
Pattaya in particular depends on tourism and hospitality for about 80 percent of their GDP and last year was the nineteenth most visited city in the world with almost ten million foreign visitors. This was actually an increase of 350,000 year over year. As an idea of just how big this is for a comparably small town and how many tourists visit Pattaya, Tokyo, Rome, Mecca and Taipei are all about the same level of visitors. Phuket had 10.5 million visitors and Bangkok had a whopping 24 million and was the second most visited city in the world, behind only Hong Kong.
The current plan, which we have covered several times over the past week, is a proposal that is approved in principle but the details are still being ironed out. To read about the proposal, see our articles here about it:
The Prime Minister was said to be deeply concerned after meetings with Chonburi leaders and seeing the data and information about the situation of Pattaya in particular, where the lack of foreign tourists has seen the majority of the business and bars in the city closed, many awaiting the return of tourism. An escalating issue of homeless, rise in petty crime and increase in stray dogs and cats due to lack of people has also caused concern from officials.
Pattaya is not currently on the initial test run, set for early October, for Phuket and possibly Koh Samui and the Phi Phi islands, however, the Prime Minister said that provinces that depend on tourism would be a first priority following his meetings in Chonburi. Based on these statements and the fact the Prime Minister toured U-Tapao airport to ensure they are ready to welcome foreign tourists specifically it is likely Pattaya would be added to the program before the end of the year.