Whether it liked it or not, pre-pandemic Pattaya was synonymous with sex tourism. But when Thailand closed its borders in March 2020, “The country’s tourism industry – which is entwined with the sex worker industry – collapsed”, American media organisation NPR reported in February. Eighteen months into the pandemic and Pattaya is reportedly unrecognisable. In a follow-up interview with NPR, one of the sex workers featured in the February report spoke about having no choice but to leave the city because she was unable to make money: “I lived in Pattaya for [six years] and never thought that Pattaya would become a deserted city. Pubs and bars that were always lit up at night are now shut down. The beach is lonely without tourists […] When I think about it, my heart aches.” So, what will become of post-pandemic Pattaya? Local English-language newspaper the Pattaya Mail has forecast five possible futures for the city: “the zombie apocalypse”, “the good old days”, “only for the rich”, “the Chinese takeover”, “the satellite city”. In the first scenario, described by the Pattaya Mail as an “ultra-pessimistic view”, the only people remaining in the city will be a “crowd of bored expats who can’t find anything to do now that alcohol has been closed off as an avenue of communal pleasure” – Aka, the zombies. If that doesn’t sound hellish, we don’t know what does. The second possibility sees a return to form for Thailand’s sex capital. “Pattaya is good only for one thing – selling sex – which will return once the virus decides to call it a day and the bars and clubs reopen,” the newspaper hypothesises, before immediately putting forward the notion that sex tourism had been on the decline before the coronavirus struck, as visitor demographics changed from single, white Western men to families from China and India. Next up is the version of Pattaya pushed by the authorities: the city as an upmarket destination. This year, the government set a “proactive economic plan”, which, according to the Bangkok Post , is “aimed at drawing at least 1 million high-income foreign tourists and foreign investors”. Proposals were put forward to make it easier for overseas buyers to purchase property in Thailand, with eyes on retirees. How Phuket’s ‘sandbox’ got mixed up in alleged murder However, as the Pattaya Mail points out, “none of these initiatives have yet surfaced”. It is also entirely possible that Pattaya would rank low on a list of desirable locations for those targeted by such schemes. The fourth scenario laid out involves an influx of Chinese money and therefore tourists. “Worries have increased as new reports reveal that most foreign-bought Pattaya condominiums are purchased by Chinese investors who are now also looking to buy local hotels which can’t repay their loans during the recession,” the Pattaya Mail reports. It is true that Chinese buyers dominate Thailand’s condo market, with news site The Thaiger reporting that “50 per cent of all acquisitions of condos in the last 2 years coming from China and another 30 per cent coming from Hong Kong”. Exactly why that is a “worry” is not explained. Finally, the satellite city idea envisions Pattaya as “a new international business and family-oriented leisure resort, backed by the investment privileges afforded by the internationally funded Eastern Economic Corridor [EEC]”. Officially an “area-based development initiative”, the EEC aims to revitalise the provinces of Rayong, Chonburi and Chachoengsao by improving infrastructure and attracting emerging industries. The EEC has already allocated 655 million baht (US$19.9 million) to Pattaya for flood defences. On August 27, as flooding paralysed Pattaya, website The Pattaya News reported that construction of such barricades began last year and was already drawing criticism online. From Taipei to Paris for love and marriage: three women’s journey Ultimately, as the Pattaya Mail concludes, there will probably be a little bit of all five predictions in the Pattaya that emerges from the pandemic. The city will be scarred by the lockdown, its tourism industry will take time to recover and it might never return to “normal”. In the meantime, the Bangkok Post reports, Pattaya is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Phuket and Samui by reopening to international tourists in the near future, although travellers will have to spend some time in quarantine on arrival. The scheme is called “Pattaya Move On”, which could perhaps be a motto for the city itself. More Thai cities planning to reopen Pattaya is not the only Thai city planning to reopen. “Bangkok, Hua Hin, Pattaya and Chiang Mai will be added to a programme in which fully vaccinated visitors who commit to a series of tests can enter, under certain criteria,” Reuters reported on September 9, citing government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchan. The October opening of the capital would be partial and restricted to “areas popular with visitors”. Khao San Road, anyone? However, high Covid-19 case numbers and a low vaccination rate mean that many countries – as well as Hong Kong – have placed Thailand on their high-risk list, and a 21-day hotel quarantine on return somewhat undermines the appeal of the Land of Smiles. Vietnam island readying to welcome international tourists Another island destination following in Phuket’s footsteps is Phu Quoc, in Vietnam, which will start welcoming vaccinated international arrivals next month. According to Reuters, “Fully vaccinated tourists with a negative coronavirus test will be eligible to visit Phu Quoc” as part of a six-month trial. It is anticipated that all of the island’s residents will be vaccinated by then and – for the moment at least – Vietnam remains in Hong Kong’s Group B, meaning that holidaymakers returning from Phu Quoc would have to quarantine in a hotel for only ( only! ) 14 days. Score!