When I first started writing my latest blog, I wanted to talk about what I have missed during this lock down in Thailand. It was all very nice and soft but lacked a bit of substance. I felt I was writing for writings sake, and so I scrapped the blog half way through. What I am more concerned about is the lasting damage that this lock down will have had on the Western market in Pattaya. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make for such a nice read.
I want to focus on Pattaya as I have lived and worked in the city for over 15 years. I know what makes it tick and have a deep understanding for the dynamics at play. Having worked in media throughout it means I have sat with business owners across all channels, from restaurants, legal, property to even fitness. I know their challenges and how they operate.
Changing behaviours become habits
Did you know, on average, it takes around 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. Some people formed a new habit after only 18 days! You can read the full article on the subject just click here.
As we enter the second month of restrictions in Thailand – and of course Pattaya – it means expats, like me, have been going about life very differently.
Instead of going for a beer, we watch a film on Netflix. Instead of going out for dinner, we have been eating indoors
Instead of going for a beer, they watch a film on Netflix. Instead of going out for dinner, they have been eating indoors. Much like our stay at home counterparts in the UK and the likes actually!
So the question, at what point does this become a habit and mean how we once acted pre-Covid-19 will not be how we act post-Covid-19? I am serious, we do not know how we all emerge from this pandemic. These are new territories none of us have ever experienced before.
This is problem number one for the Western market in Pattaya to be cautious of.
The Western Market was falling away in the first place
Roll back 15 years when I first arrived in Pattaya and the city was made for Westerners – especially men. It was built on nightlife and every soi has a hand full of open beer bars and down town numerous party zones, complete with ago-gos. I think back to the days in North Pattaya – where [email protected] Hotel is now located – that was a bustling area of bars, in Soi 7 and 8 you would be manhandled into the bars by the bar girls, both Sois were hugely popular. The town has changed immeasurably.
Each year different factors impacted on the number of retiree and working Western Expats. Falling exchange rates being the most notable factor and more recently the toughening of retiree visa rules. It means each year it has become harder and harder for business targeting Westerners. Western numbers have been falling and those that are here have less retiree pension monies in their pockets. Just take a read of the findings from a Thaivisa survey that concluded there were now fewer Western Expats than ever in Thailand – click here to read.
Pre-Covid-19 I sat with many a restaurant owner who was already talking doom and gloom. I wondered even then how long many of the weaker, smaller Western operators would be able to keep their doors open.
And then Covid-19 hit us and it has devastated the local market. With business forced to close, I worry that even when restrictions are loosened – how many will actually open?
There are no tourists in Pattaya, the town is empty. Western operators with strong expat consumers can survive in the current market, just. For many it’s probably cheaper to keep closed than open and make even bigger losses.
But of the expats still here, it’s not enough to go around and what if expats choose not to go out to eat and drink as often as before. Newly formed habits are difficult to shift.
Even when International Flights are allowed, who is coming?
Let’s say Thailand is open for business again come June. We must remember the rest of the world has been hit by Covid-19, actually they have been hit much harder than Thailand.
What appetite will people have to jump on a long haul flight, which will no doubt have new rules in place that could even make airfare more expensive? Many have lost jobs and have less disposable income in their pockets. This pandemic could take a long time for the world to recover from… I mean, we don’t even have a vaccine yet and are not even in the all clear.
Hugely Uncertain and Challenging Future
We all have no idea of what the future holds and we cannot even put a timeline together going forward. I can only, sadly, see a very slow recovery and fear the Western market in Pattaya will be hit hard. What I have seen though, is glimpses of a Western Expat community spirit – something that has actually been missing for the last few years – let’s hope this can be a catalyst to pull through this together.
The winners will be, as always, the ones that adapt to the new market and make the changes needed to survive.