Pattaya’s spa and massage industry has all but disappeared, with employment falling 96% since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the Pattaya Spa Association has said.
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The lack of foreign tourists has left the roads of the North, Center and South calm during the week, day and night. Many shops have “for sale” and “for rent” signs in empty windows, especially those that once housed massage parlors, restaurants and clothing stores.
The president of the Spa Chairat Rattanopas association said on November 27 that there are as many as 500 massage companies in Pattaya, most of them between Beach and Second Roads.
He said 90 percent of them have now closed. About 75 remain open inside hotels.
“There are around 10 massage companies in Pattaya, which were established to support tourists with tour groups each employing 200 to 300 people,” Chairat said. Now there are no more tourist groups and many small and medium-sized massage houses have closed or reduced their staff by 80%.
He said there are many spas inside hotels, and while resorts have reopened, spas haven’t. Even major industry players like Siam Wellness Group’s Let’s Relax Spa remain closed.
Thai tourists are not big clients of massage parlors targeting foreigners and Thais, Chairat said. Many negotiated pay cuts with employees to survive, but many workers simply quit and returned to the provinces rather than earn a pittance to live in a relatively expensive city of Pattaya.
Stores that once employed 30 to 40 people now employ four or five, Chairat said. Overall, Pattaya’s spa industry has fallen from 10,000 to less than 400, he estimated.
The collapse of the spa and massage industry affects more than masseuses and owners, Chairat said. The domino effect has toppled material suppliers, beverage suppliers, schools, and even government training programs. The entire supply chain has been devastated, he said.
After Covid-19, Thailand could see a very different spa industry, Chairat said. Companies and chains can disappear, replaced by masseuses and individual masseurs.
This offers opportunities, but also creates problems, Chairat said: There may be more work for the self-employed, but quality control, safety and hygiene will suffer.