By Barry Kenyon

Anything and everything about Thailand
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Latest effort to revive Thai tourism reflects the “North Korean” model

By Barry Kenyon

October 13, 2020

In the never-ending crusade to think of ideas to reopen Thailand to leisure tourism without incurring a second coronavirus wave, the Ministry of Health has now proposed that short-term international tourists may be able to travel in supervised groups during their 14-day quarantine on entry. This would be a variant on the Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ), which requires an isolated stay in a registered hotel, but the new tourists would not be confined to their room but allowed to venture outside on local escorted tours to places of interest such as spas, monuments and restaurants. Everyone back in the bus please.

The visitors would be required to use tracking devices and would be accompanied on a 24/7 basis by Covid-19 medical agents. Chonburi province, which hosts the struggling seaside resort of Pattaya, has been mentioned as a possible location for a trial run. This is apparently because the province already has substantial experience of handling the quarantine of new arrivals at Suvarnabhumi airport. There are several Pattaya hotels which are registered for that purpose.

However, the notion of welcoming international tourists under such close supervision and monitoring has been dubbed the “North Korean” model because visiting foreigners on group tours there are allowed little or no freedom of movement with compulsory outings to local sites favoured by the Pyongyang regime. North Korea has suspended these tours for the duration of the pandemic.

The latest proposal to restart leisure tourism in Thailand is one of a handful of ideas, none of which has yet been formally introduced. Last July there was talk of travel bubbles and green zones with neighboring countries which did not materialize after sudden virus outbreaks in China and Vietnam. They were followed by the Snowbird concept in which longstay visitors would be welcomed as escapees from cold winters in Europe and elsewhere, but the practicalities proved too difficult. One unpopular suggestion had been that they wear an ankle tracking bracelet 24/7.

Finally the STV (Special Tourist Visa) program was introduced formally on October 1 but, to date, has seen no actual arrivals. The stated reasons have been administrative blockages, confusion over registration or even the need to postpone the initiative until the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket has passed. Certainly the STV scheme in its detail remains a masterpiece of ambiguity for the general public.

All the above schemes have been for groups presumably arriving on charter flights, but only from countries with a good track record of handling the virus. China in other words. All the proposals have envisaged expensive medical insurance, frequent Covid-19 testing prior to arrival and during the holiday, computerized or electronic tracking and a variant of “soft” quarantine for the first fortnight.

Greg Harris, a British travel agent and Association of British Travel Agents spokesman, said, “It’s a case of too many proposals from different government ministries which are then discarded or fall into oblivion.” He added that the possibility of Brits having a holiday in Thailand before the end of the pandemic or mass vaccination were remote, especially as the UK was experiencing a serious hike in the number of infected people.

Thailand has admitted about 22,000 foreigners since the partial reopening of air travel in June. All of them have needed to apply for a certificate of eligibility from their local Thai embassy which in turn requires voluminous paperwork. The main categories of permitted arrivals have been work permit holders, aliens with a Thai spouse, medical tourists, investors, Elite visa holders and the super-rich under several headings including ownership of property. Retirees are also now allowed to return provided they obtain the O/A annual visa with the necessary income and insurance cover. But no tourists please.

https://www.khaosodenglish.com/news/cri ... mic-visas/

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Photos of the venues Barry mentions are in the Pattaya Mail full article. Click the link below to see the photos.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________

Famous Pattaya landmarks that have bitten the dust

By Barry Kenyon

October 20, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic, as is well known, has taken a huge toll on Pattaya businesses. Around half the resort’s entertainment venues are under lock and key. Even the once-vibrant street markets have shrunk, whilst the service sector including lawyers’ offices, visa shops, travel agencies and massage parlours are cutting hours or putting up for sale and for rent notices. Here’s a selection of just five well-known Pattaya landmarks which have, at any rate for the time being, called it a day. They have closed.

1. The Colosseum
Pattaya is famous for its professional cabarets and transvestite artistes. All the major shows closed down as soon as Thailand declared lockdown last March. The Colosseum, looking very abandoned these days, was the most recent addition but still dates back to 2013.

Tourists from China, who far outnumber any other nationality, arrived in scores of tour buses to marvel at the thrice nightly extravaganzas before packing the neighboring restaurants on Thepprasit Road to enjoy that Chinese favourite – Mama noodles.


2. The Pig and Whistle
A popular choice with expats in general and Brits in particular, the Jomtien Pig and Whistle almost resembled a Manchester pub on occasion. In its heyday, this restaurant served arguably the best fish and chips in town and there was a breadcrumbs option, rather than beer batter, for the chunky fillet. By closure time last March, some reviews on Trip Advisor were talking about the loss of magic and the advent of smaller portions. None the less the Pig and Whistle, strategically placed in the centre of Jomtien life, left a stark gap in the lives of many Pattaya retirees.


3. Ginza A Go Go
The Walking Street has suffered more than most from the absence of the tourist hordes. Ginza struggled on for a while, but has now closed like many others. Almost uniquely, the “for rent” notice actually tells you what to expect including a 10 years contract and a state-of-the-art light and sound system. There is talk of turning the Walking Street into a Thai-style leisure area and markets selling native products. Not to mention the rumours of international finance knocking the entire street down in an acknowledgement that Pattaya’s days as Sin City are well and truly over.


4. Starbucks Coffee
Starbucks Coffee was founded in Thailand in 1998 and has pioneered handcrafted beverages by inviting customers to personalize their beverages. Great marketing ideas. But even Starbucks coffeehouses alongside, other famous names in the fast food industry, has suffered some closures, including this branch on Pattaya’s Beach Road. Yet other branches, for example in the nearby Avenue mall and the South Pattaya Road, are still popular drop-in centres for both expats and locals coming to chat, meet up or work.


5. Robins Nest
Robins Nest guesthouse, sports bar and restaurant is one of the few closures in town that positively aspires to reopening once the better tourist times return. Situated in Soi Diana, Robins Nest was well regarded for the professionalism of those running it and the food received many accolades on social media, notably the Sunday carvery which became a compulsory outing for a good many local expats. In an impromptu hand vote last year in one of the local expat clubs, Robins Nest was acclaimed as the “best breakfast” in town. Adieu but hopefully not Cheerio.

https://www.pattayamail.com/news/famous ... ust-330469

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

Post by ceejay »

Expensive chain coffee shops have taken a hit in Chiang Mai too. At Kad Suan Kaew (an old, but large and very centrally located mall) there were Starbucks and Black Canyon which have both closed. The only coffee shop in there now is the Amazon in the basement which, the last time I was there, warned me that there was a queue of 12 orders.

Here in Chiang Mai the big chains have competition from a local chain, Wawee Coffee, which is in the opinion of many, better than Starbucks, and certainly cheaper. There are also many local independents, some of which are very good and have loyal followings.

Amazon, a nationwide chain is probably doing well because the quality is good and the prices are low. Being owned by PTT and having many branches on PTT real estate, in their gas stations, Amazon's cost base will be very different to the other chains.

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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ceejay wrote:
Tue Oct 20, 2020 12:50 pm
Expensive chain coffee shops have taken a hit in Chiang Mai too.
I am sorry if anyone's favorite coffee shop has closed, but I do have a solution:


Image

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Thailand’s Elite visa is a cash beneficiary of the coronavirus pandemic

By Barry Kenyon

October 21, 2020

Applications for the increasingly popular Elite visa are now doubling every month, according to Thailand Privilege Card (TPC) president Somchai Soongswang. The total number has now reached 11,500 with China, Japan, South Korea, the UK and the US topping the charts. Somchai says that a major factor in the recent expansion has been Thailand’s success in combatting the pandemic, thus making it an attractive destination for wealthy expats. During the financial year September 2019 to September 2020, TPC took in income 1.6 billion baht, an increase of almost 27 percent on 2018.

Introduced in 2003 but initially unsuccessful owing to poor marketing, Elite offers 10 different options for visas lasting from 5 to 20 years. The costs vary between 500,000 baht and 2.4 million according to the length of the pay-to-stay permit and the number of family members included in the deal. Perks include airport greetings staff and fast-track immigration, limousine services, free hospital check-ups and discounts in high-class leisure and sports complexes.

Since the onset of Covid-19, several moves by the Thai government have boosted the popularity of the Elite visa. It was mooted in August that foreigners holding an Elite card would be included in the categories able to apply for a Certificate of Entry from their local Thai embassy. Although there were initial bureaucratic delays, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) cleared the backlog earlier this month. TPC president Somchai says that 70 percent of recent subscribers have been holders of other visas switching to Elite in order to hasten their arrival in the Land of Smiles.

This month it was announced that top-tier Elite visa holders – those holding visas for longer than 5 years – would be able to work without a work permit provided they separately invested one million US dollars in the country. Meanwhile a new Elite option is the Elite Maxima Health which combines a long-term visa with comprehensive medical care in the top hospitals. This could prove to be an attractive visa given the current emphasis on the need for medical insurance. Finally, the government is urging real estate developers to include an Elite membership in significant property purchases by foreigners.

These Elite developments, together with other moves such as broadening the scope of the four year Smart visa which does not require a work permit and an end to the insistence on Labour Office permits for short-term business people, mean that Thai authorities are currently more interested in attracting wealthy retirees and professionals to base here than in restarting mass tourism. Expect the Elite visa to play a growing role in Thailand’s future immigration policy. No doubt about that.

https://www.pattayamail.com/news/thaila ... mic-330605

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

Post by Jun »

Time to review the numbers.

11500 applications.
We don't know which option is taken, but let's assume it's 2.4 million baht, the most expensive & best case for Thailand.
So total revenue is 27.6 billion baht

I believe Thailand had 39 million visitors per year pre-covid, so to raise 27.6 billion baht, they would need just 707 baht per visitor under previous conditions.
I'm fairly sure the taxes paid on my spending in Thailand exceed that by orders of magnitude. 17% tax on hotels for a start.

OK, so these 11500 might be big spenders in terms of contribution to the Thai economy. However, the elite are not going to outspend the plebs by a factor of 3300:1 which is roughly what would be needed to make up the deficit.

Even if we assume they spend 5 times as much, this amounts to a fraction of a percent of previous turnover.

In terms of contribution to the Thai economy, it's irrelevant.

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

Post by ceejay »

707 baht each? Coincidentally, no doubt, each international air ticket out of Thailand includes a departure tax of, I think, 700 baht.

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Question marks over compulsory insurance for all foreigners entering Thailand

Are there one or two compulsory insurance policies in the system?

By Barry Kenyon

October 25, 2020

The Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) has now clarified that the mandatory medical insurance worth at least US$100,000 is for Covid-19 related issues only and is not required for general medical or accident cover. This will come as a relief to the advanced-elderly wishing to visit Thailand as Covid-19 insurance is widely available for anyone aged 1-99 years, whereas comprehensive medical insurance is problematical or impossible for those in their late 70s and above.

TAT explains that the insurance is now available online from the Thai General Insurance Association which incorporates 16 other participating companies. The website explains that the disease must have been caught in Thailand post-registration only and does not cover any other illnesses or pre-existing condition. Thai hospital room and board costs must not exceed “standard room charges” except in the intensive care unit where “medical necessity” is the criterion. Enrolment costs for a full 12 months vary considerably to a maximum of 43,200 baht, but the only factor is the country of origin and not the age of the applicant which is unusual. A person travelling from UK would at present pay 23,040 baht, those from India much more.

The question now arises whether this coronavirus-specific policy is the only one in play for foreign applicants applying to their local Thai embassy for that vital Certificate of Entry. Not necessarily. The new Special Tourist Visa (STV), offering stays of between 90 and 270 days, is only available in countries with a low infection rate. But the website of the Thailand Longstay Company, which first confirmed the STV, still refers on its website to the need to have both the US$100,000 Covid-19 insurance and also a separate second policy to cover other medical problems/emergencies to the tune of 400,000 baht inpatient and 40,000 outpatient treatment. This latter insurance is not available to anyone over 75 years applying for the first time, according to the websites of the participating Thai companies in that scheme.

Or take the example of the 12-months O/A retirement visa issued by virtually all Thai embassies worldwide. Most Thai embassies, including the London-based one, refer solely to the Covid-19 US$100,000 insurance, but the Washington DC website specifies (for this visa) “additionally” another policy for 400,000 and 40,000 baht. In other words, the possibility of needing two insurance policies to cover separately coronavirus infections and other health crises is still afloat. Until the issues are fully sorted, assuming they are, all applicants for the Certificate of Entry should rely only on the appropriate embassy website. There are significant differences internationally.

The lurking second insurance was introduced in 2018 – long before the pandemic arrived – to cover specifically retirees applying for an O/A visa at an embassy and also renewing it at a Thai immigration office. Its current status, in view of the TAT announcement about Covid-19 being the only necessary cover, is in need of clarification. Unless, of course, some websites out there haven’t been updated yet.

https://www.pattayamail.com/featured/qu ... and-331076

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Pattaya Boyztown: end of an era?

By Barry Kenyon

October 27, 2020

Nobody is quite sure where the term Boyztown originated. One possibility is the 1938 movie of that name, but Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney were hardly icons of the gay civil right movement. There is a town in India’s Kerala state called Boys Town but it is apparently famous only for its herbal gardens and cucumber sandwiches. There is a Jamaican football club called Boystown, but there’s a high murder rate of gays over there. Oh well, never mind.

Pattaya Boyztown (it was originally named Boystown) was the center of gay entertainment in the 1990s and early 2000s, before competition in Sunee Plaza and the Jomtien Complex caused a slow decline.

In its prime, Boyztown played host to a score of restaurants, hotels, karaokes, bars, clubs and cabaret shows appealing mostly to European gay tourists who flocked in their thousands to spend the pink pound, get sunburned, watch the eye candy and let their hair down.

But in October 2020, the Boyztown district is truly deserted. For the first year in ages, Halloween will likely be a flop. In the main street, only the Panorama bar is open most evenings, but plays host to scant customers and to two bored-looking staff checking their cell phones.

The two biggest cabaret clubs, Castro and Boyz Boyz Boyz, appear to be open only at weekends presumably to cater for the Bangkok crowd taking a mini-break. The once elegant Toyboys, a male go go bar catering mainly for wealthy Asian men, now has fixtures and fittings piled up outside permanently locked doors.

Flamboyant drag stars Eggz Benedict and Aggie Glitterbug, not actually their real names and currently unemployed, said that Boyztown’s decline wasn’t sudden. “From about 2010, the number of European tourists began to fall off as Thailand began to get expensive and eastern Europe opened up for the first time,” said Eggz.

“It’s really been downhill since then,” adds Aggie, “although the shows were packed in recent years by Chinese tour groups who have also disappeared thanks to coronavirus.”

In its heyday, Boyztown businesses were also significant fundraisers for various charities, especially aids-related and orphanages. Annual street cabarets and parties could haul in hundreds of thousands of baht for worthy Thai causes.

The Bangkok Post gossip columnist Bernard Trink (who died earlier this year) always refused to mention gay venues, but even he did once congratulate the Pattaya Gay Festival committee for handing out free condoms to the male prostitutes who might need them. He then ruined the positive effect by complaining that the owner of the Amor restaurant in Boyztown had tried to poison him with a tarnished shrimp cocktail and a stale carrot cake.

Will Boyztown recover its former glory? Eggz and Glitterbug think not. “Pattaya’s future lies in a different direction with literally millions of Chinese tourists waiting in the wings,” muses Eggz.

“It’s not only Boyztown,” complains Aggie, “nobody is making any money these days.”

Both of them point to social media apps, such as Grindr and Hornet, which have replaced gay bars and clubs as meeting places. “But what will come back after the virus are the cabaret extravaganzas,” predicts Eggz, “because you don’t have to be gay to enjoy a good drag show.”

Can’t argue with that.

Story and photos: https://www.pattayamail.com/featured/pa ... era-331380

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