4am closing time would spur tourist spending not Thai drinking: official

Photo: Adam Selwood / CC BY-ND 2.0
Photo: Adam Selwood / CC BY-ND 2.0

Later closing times in tourist-heavy areas would boost revenue, not our collective alcoholism, Thailand’s top tourism official said this morning.

The 4am closing time proposed for designated areas is meant to help improve the economy rather than encourage drinking, Gov. Yuthasak Supasorn of the tourism authority said as it and another proposal to extend tourist visas head to the pandemic task force for approval. 

“Extending the closing hours of entertainment venues is because people from some countries start having dinner around 9pm or 10pm, and around midnight onward, they would like to continue,” he said. “If there is a longer spending period, then there will be more money entering the economy. This is not advocating for increased alcohol consumption.”

The plan would allow entertainment venues to stay open two more hours in locales that serve large numbers of tourists such as Bangkok, Pattaya, Krabi, Phuket, Hua Hin, Samui, and Chiang Mai. Even then, it would only apply to specific areas such as, for Bangkok, Khaosan Road.

The idea will be considered next month by the COVID-19 task force, which retains broad authority under the eternal emergency decree imposed by the government in March 2020.

It comes as the country reels from mass, nightlife-related violence that broke out in the northeast with a massive gun battle between gangs from opposing nightclubs, not to mention a nightclub fire that killed 15 southeast of the capital.

Yuthasak said that, prior to the pandemic, areas such as Pattaya’s Walking Street had stayed open until 4am. If the proposal is approved, it would come into effect in October.

Before then, the ministry will meet with the task force on Aug. 19 to discuss extending tourist visas from 30 days to 45 days. It also wants visas on arrival tripled in duration to 45 days from the current 15 days. 

After two years of strict public health controls on travel and entertainment that left tourism-reliant economies in tatters, Thailand has moved swiftly to regain its appeal as a top global destination. The rate of infection remains relatively low – about 2,000 recorded daily cases since June – and arrivals surged 68% from roughly 520,000 in June to nearly 770,000 in July, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports.

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