Thailand

Pattaya tourist numbers surge amid political crisis fears

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Pattaya’s most famous avenue isn’t as busy as it was in 2019, but still embodies the fun image the resort has cultivated over the years.

So far this year, 9.5 million foreign tourists have arrived in Thailand, with 3 million of them going directly to Pattaya, according to Thai government spokeswoman Traisuree Taisaranakul. The national economy benefitted US$11 billion, of which Pattaya contributed about a third. The Bank of Thailand said it was confident there would be 28 million arrivals for the full calendar year, compared with 40 million in 2019 before the pandemic.

Thai authorities have developed a series of strategies to maximize refugee attraction. Domestic arrivals in China have been sluggish due to a shortage of planes and delays by Beijing authorities in issuing new passports, but are expected to increase to multiple flights an hour by late summer. The Thai Immigration Bureau has also simplified the 15-day visa-on-arrival for Chinese citizens by allowing paperwork to be completed before the flight. Meanwhile, nationals of 60 countries, including the UK, the US, most of continental Europe and Australia, can extend their 30-day visa-free permit for a further month without leaving the country.

A spokesman for the Pattaya Entertainment Group said nightlife had more or less returned to normal after the pandemic, adding that cannabis has added benefits and the distinction between medical and recreational use is clearly blurred. Especially on weekends, there is heavy traffic and heavy traffic in the city center and surrounding areas. According to the Eastern Thailand Hoteliers Association, the main problem facing hoteliers in Pattaya is finding enough staff, especially in hotels. The Thai government is trying to fill the gap by recruiting more workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, with which it has signed memorandums of understanding.

“Tourism will be a key pillar supporting our growth this year,” said Thitima Chucherd, an economist at Siam Commercial Bank. But the threat comes from Thailand’s general election on May 14. Pro-democracy parties have the most seats in the 500-member House of Representatives, but the votes of the 250 unelected senators appointed by the military will also play a key role in who becomes prime minister.

While most commentators downplay the prospect of yet another military intervention – which would need to be an odd self-coup, as military leaders currently run the country in a caretaker role – long and bitter parliamentary conflict or an unstable minority government The outlook is already worrying investors. “If political tension spills into the streets, arrivals growth will slip as it has in the past two decades,” said Australia and New Zealand Banking Group’s Krystal Tan. Still, if all goes well, the new government will Take office in August.

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